Hank Thompson died five years ago today. Obit-Mag remembered the country-music legend's life and legacy. Originally published November 2007 on Obit-Mag.com.
For over four decades, Hank Thompson wore a jaunty crown as the king of honky tonk swing. Only days after canceling a US tour and announcing his retirement, Thompson died at the age of 82. With hits peppering the charts from the late 1940s to the 1980s, Thompson wrote and performed up-beat odes to the highs and lows of Western life. Songs such as “A Six Pack to Go” and “The Wild Side of Life” offered a bright-eyed window into the on-goings at roadhouses across the nation. He toured those roadhouses incessantly, playing over 250 shows a year until last year.
Country music singer Hank Thompson is shown at the Country Music Association (CMA) awards in Nashville, Tenn., in this Oct. 9, 1989, file photo. Thompson, who had 29 hits reach the top 10 between 1948 and 1974, has died of lung cancer just days after canceling his tour, his spokesman said Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007. Thompson, 82, died late Tuesday at his home in the Fort Worth suburb of Keller, said Tracy Pitcox, who also is president of Heart of Texas Records. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, file)
He wrote his first hit while serving in the Navy during the Second World War. “Whoa Sailor” recounts a chance meeting between a young seafarer and a woman in a bar. Many of his compositions revolved around cheerful imbibing, such as “On Tap, in the Can, or in a Bottle”. But these were often preludes to songs of sorrow, which he sang with the same plucky, ever cheerful and clear tenor voice, like “Humpty Dumpty Heart” a playful parry of shattered love.
His last performance was on October 8, 2007, in his hometown, Waco, Texas. For generations of honky tonkers it was the last chance to see this mainstay of western swing. Considering Thompson’s hardiness and longevity, who would have known?
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