There isn’t a lot of middle ground on Hank Williams, Jr. You either love him or you don’t. He has a tendency to say what he thinks — and isn’t scared of the repercussions of it.
Unfortunately, his outspoken nature has sometimes taken the attention away from what the singer has done so well for close to six decades — his music. His fusion of country, rock and blues have given the record-buying public some incredible moments over the course of his career — and merit as much attention as he gets for his sometimes-controversial statements.
As the singer gears up to return to ESPN as the musical voice of Monday Night Football next month, here are 10 moments of Hank Williams Jr’s career that — along with his legendary stage show and being the only country artist to ever have nine albums on the chart at one time — show why he stands as a distinct musical legend — and one that certainly belongs in the Country Music Hall of Fame!
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10. Hank Williams, Jr. – “Texas Women”
This simple ode to the alluring and enduring charm of the female gender from the Lone Star state turned out to be an important career moment in Williams’ recording career. Beginning in 1979, his records began to hit the top ten on a regular basis as never before, but this Hank Williams, Jr. song returned him to the number one slot for the first time in almost a decade.
9. Hank Williams, Jr. – “There’s A Tear In My Beer (with Hank Williams)”
This song was one that his father had written and recorded (as a demo) over three decades prior, but the recording had been in the hands of Bill Lister, who had originally recorded the song. His wife found the demo in the attic one day, and the two gave the recording to Hank Jr, who added his vocals to the track — and the song became an immediate hit in the winter of 1989, thanks in large part to an unforgettable video directed by Ethan Russell that starred father and son — although the son was at this point a decade older than his father had lived to be.
8. Hank Williams, Jr. – “Old Habits”
One of the singer’s more understated performances, this song reached the top 10 in the fall months of 1980. In the lyrics, Williams laments that even though he has beaten some formidable odds and opponents over the years, losing the love of his life was something that he would never be able to fully recover from.
7. Hank Williams, Jr. – “I’m For Love”
This 1985 single was solely written by the singer, who documents that while different people and different organizations were against this or that, he was fine simply being with the person he cared about. The song was the lead single from his album Five-O, which remains one of his most enduring albums to this day.
6. Hank Williams, Jr. – “Pride’s Not Hard To Swallow”
Just like with Waylon Jennings’ early work, there sometimes is a tendency to discount the beginning era of a career such as Hank Williams, Jr, because at age 23 in 1972, he was still finding his way as a recording artist, and the southern rock sound that would fuel his massive career spike in the 1980s hadn’t came to light yet. But, the singer knew what he was capable of as a vocalist, with this song about a man expressing remorse for walking out on his lover — and wanting to come back.
5. Hank Williams, Jr. – “Heaven Can’t Be Found”
Yes, Hank Williams Jr. is a rocker and a badass. However, when he wants to be, he can also be one of the finest traditional country singers in the format’s history. You won’t find any stronger proof of that than on this breathtaking performance that stands as one of the finest Hank Williams, Jr. song performances in the books.
4. Hank Williams, Jr. – “A Country Boy Can Survive”
Williams touched a nerve among his southern fan base with this 1982 single that has seemingly had a life of its own over the years. The original release hit No. 2 that winter, and in 2001 — following the September 11 attacks — the song charted again under the title “America Will Survive,” changing the premise of the original a bit, as the singer’s friend from New York City who was “killed by a man with a switchblade knife” was actually one of the victims of the tragedy.
3. Hank Williams, Jr. – “Born To Boogie”
By 1987, Williams was on an artistic and a commercial roll like never before. That year, after being a recording artist for a quarter-century, he finally broke through and won the CMA and ACM Entertainer of the Year trophies, and hit the top of the charts with this autobiographical rocker that endeared him to fans and fellow artists alike. In 2016, the singer re-recorded the song on his excellent It’s About Time disc with help from Brantley Gilbert, Justin Moore, and Brad Paisley.
2. Hank Williams, Jr. – “Ain’t Misbehavin’”
You know about his country side. You also know about his rock side. But, if you’ve ever been to a Hank Williams, Jr. concert, you also know that he loves the blues, as well. And, he can very much pull it off. In 1985, several in the industry were a little surprised to see “Bocephus” cover this evergreen from Fats Waller, but the singer made it work — giving an impressive performance of the song that earned him yet another number one single in May of 1986.
1. Hank Williams, Jr. – “Family Tradition”
Fans can sing along with every line of this 1979 top ten hit, and it remains one of the signature Hank Williams, Jr. songs in his catalog — because it’s as real as they come. The lyrics paint the story of how the singer — though grateful for his father’s legacy — is determined to forge his own musical point of view. The song also features some classic fiddle work from Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie Daniels, which leads us to this — when is Hank Williams, Jr. going to become a member of the Hall? To paraphrase his latest album, It’s About Time. Damn Past Time, to be exact!