Measure For Measure: We’re Sure Hank Done It This Way

Just as your lyrics have a grammatical structure, so must your music.

Hank Williams, Audrey Sheppard Williams and the Drifting Cowboys band, in 1951. Public Domain. Hank Williams, Audrey Sheppard Williams and the Drifting Cowboys band, in 1951. Public Domain.

“Measure for Measure” suggests our mission here: to savor songs slowly, one measure at a time, diving beneath the surface in search of the wellsprings of genius. This time around, we’ll look at a legendary song by a legendary songwriter, Hank Williams, Sr.

Since most readers of this column want to write songs, not just read about them, we’ll mix our observations with a few creative challenges. We’re going to use some vocabulary from past columns, so e-mail [email protected] and type “Request Measure for Measure eBooks” in the subject line if anything throws you.

Challenge #1: Suppose that once you were in love, but now you’re alone. All is lost. Who left you. Why. Where are you now. Don’t tell — show, in images, sounds, colors. Dream a little.

Now how would you put all of that into a song.

First, choose a musical framework: What key. What meter. What chords. What about the first five notes. What form will your song take. Borrow a little from songs with a similar mood.

Hank Williams faced a similar problem in 1949, but he already had his lyrics — a poem. His friends begged him to make it into a song, and the result was “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” It was released on the B side of the up-tempo “My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It,” but... Sign In to Keep Reading

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