Take This Tune

Posted: Monday, October 26, 2009 by Travis Cody in

Take This Tune is a feature hosted by my pal Jamie at Duward Discussion. Jamie puts up a video prompt complete with lyrics to the song, and the task is to write something inspired by the title of the song or something in the lyrics.

This week's prompt refers to Hank Williams. Jamie reminds us of songs written about encounters with the ghost of Mr Williams. For those of you who don't know, Hank Williams is one of the most influential song writers in American music. He didn't just have an impact on country music. Rather his influence can be found across all genres.

It is his untimely death at the age of 29 that inspires my post today. Mr Williams suffered from chronic pain for nearly his entire life, possibly due to an undiagnosed case of spina bifida occulta. This likely led to his abuse of alcohol and drugs. He died on 1 January 1953 in the back of a chauffeur driven Cadillac, officially from heart failure. However the curcumstances of his death have always been mysterious.

Whenever an artist dies young, one of the first things that I think is whatever they've given us of their talent is all we'll ever have of it. To name just a handful of talented artists who died too young:

James Dean left us with three iconic performances. He was 24 when he died.

Janis Joplin was a pioneer for women in rock music. She was 27 when she died.

Jimi Hendrix inflenced the way rock music was made and recorded. He was 27 when he died.

John Belushi had exquisite comedic timing and was a mimic of the first order. He was 33 when he died.

Buddy Holly was a pioneer in fusing a pop music sound with country music beats and cadences. He was 22 when he died.

Freddie Prinze was a pioneer Latino comedian and actor. He was 22 when he died.

You can name dozens more. And whether they died accidentally, or from health issues, or from self-inflicted causes, what we have of their work is all they'll ever give us. That's a sad thing. But the work they gave us when they were here is a thing to be celebrated.

I often wonder if a talent solely belongs to the artist, or if that talent belongs to the community. Is a person with talent selfish if they don't share it with the world? Are we selfish to demand that a person share his talent with us?

Of course, it's the talent that we want to experience and enjoy. We only want to be transported by it. Is that callous or cruel of us, to want to enjoy the talent but not be quite so concerned about the person who owns it? Sometimes that talent is so big that all the peripheral stuff that latches onto the talent can consume the vessel. We hear of the death of that artist and we have that moment of disbelief that leads us to a human grief...is the grief for the loss of the artist or the talent, or both?

I don't know. But I know that it makes me angry when an artist leaves too soon. Or, what I think is too soon. I donate money to a foundation if the death is from a disease. I blame the artist if the death is from an overdose or other self-inflicted cause. I want justice if the death is from murder. And I'm at a loss if the death is accidental.

So perhaps we all have a responsibility to nurture and protect talent...to respect it in ourselves if we have it, to carefully share it with those who might enjoy it, and to ease our demands on it when we view it in others. And to guard ourselves against the selfish motives that could become harmful to an artist and rob us of the fruits of the talent.

After all, what you just heard or saw or felt could be all there is.

Remember, we're counting down the days to 5 November 2009 with Peace Quotes. We're just 9 days out.

"People spend a lifetime searching for happiness; looking for peace. They chase idle dreams, addictions, religions, even other people, hoping to fill the emptiness that plagues them. The irony is the only place they ever needed to search was within." Ramona L Anderson

Check the top of my side bar to your right for all the information you need to participate in this year's Blog Blast for Peace. Please consider joining us. If you need help with your Globe, let me know in comments.

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I believe that words have power, so this matters.


  1. Amazing the effect these folks had at such young ages. Certainly not me.

  1. Thanks for the Peggy Lee song, Travis! What a haunting song! And thanks for the great words about talent and the peace globes! :)

  1. Jeni says:

    I really enjoyed/appreciated reading this post Trav -for one thing because it made me think about how some of my tastes -particularly of music -have evolved over the years. Also made me think of how little I knew of so many performers back then too. When they were around -and popular -I knew nothing of either Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix. Today, I'm still not familiar with Jimi Hendrix's work but love Janis Joplin's singing. Back when I was a kid, I disliked the twangy country-western music, especially Hank Williams stuff. Today, I enjoy/appreciate hearing his music and his son's too. (Johnny Cash, Tom T. Hall -two of my fav artists, if you can believe that!) Actually, over the years, my taste in music -as in many other things -have all become quite eclectic -a big mish-mash of all sorts of people, types, etc.
    Thanks for sparking some comparisons in my mind of changes in my life.

  1. Akelamalu says:

    It's true some amazingly talented people have died young - such a shame. :(

  1. Bond says:

    I have also felt the anger when those wonderful artists died too young...Anger at them - for those who died of abuse of substances - anger at those who may have contributed to the deaths of these icons - anger that I am being deprived of their great talents.

    So many names could be added to this list and with so many I often wonder what incredible songs/movies/stories we lost when we lost them..Allman, Candy, Vaughn, osh the list is endless...

  1. Linda says:

    I've always thought that 'what will be, will be' when it comes to a person's time to die; that there's a specific time written in the book of life but of course, we have no idea when that time may be. With this young artists that died so soon before their time, sometimes you've got to think that they did what they were supposed to do at such a young age because they were going to be departing this life early.

    Then of course, I could be talking completely out of my back end and have no idea what I am blathering about!

  1. Travis says:

    Charles: Some just burn out so fast.

    Mary: That was the first song I thought of when I saw the prompt.

    Jeni: You make a good point about tastes changing and evolving.

    Akelamalu: We all lose something when that kind of talent leaves early.

    V: I really did only touch the surface.

    Linda: I guess it depends on where our belief system takes us, as to how we explain it and deal with it.

  1. Jeff Buckley was pretty young when he died too...

  1. Jamie says:


    I just love it when you take a prompt in a totally unexpected direction. That was a wonderful piece and using the Peggy Lee song just perfect.

  1. I think having incredible talent is a type of incredible intelligence...and I think many battle demons mere mortals will never understand.

    This was a great post.