Legendary Nashville songwriter, Hank Cochran, died Thursday morning at his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee, surrounded by his family and friends. Last night, Jamey Johnson, Billy Ray Cyrus and Buddy Cannon all dropped by to see Cochran and sing songs with him, one final time.
Hank Cochran began his career in Nashville in the ’60s heyday of Music City. He wrote “I Fall To Pieces” with Harlan Howard and the song became a number one country hit for Patsy Cline in 1960. He also wrote songs for George Strait, Burle Ives, and Merle Haggard.
Cochran helped discover a young Willie Nelson, while both men were hanging out at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge on Lower Broadway in Nashville. Nelson later covered Cochran’s “Can I Sleep In Your Arms” on his Red Headed Stranger album in 1975. In an interview with American Songwriter in late 2008, Cochran had this to say about his friend:
We had a guitar pull on a day about 4:00 p.m. with four or five of us upstairs at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge as someone had introduced me and Willie. After a couple of rounds of songs, Willie played better than anyone of us! I asked, “Whose songs are those?” Willie replied, “Mine.” I said, “You wrote those songs” and he said “Yes.” I asked about his publishing and he said everyone in town had turned those songs down. I told him, “If you can meet me the next day in Goodlettsville, you will not say everyone turned them down!” He said, “I can probably make it out there if you can bring me back to town” [laughs]. I said, “If you make it out there I’ll make sure you make it back.” He came out and sang me some songs and I went in to talk to Harold Smith, my publisher, and told him I found this guy that he has to sign. He asked what Willie would have to have for a weekly pay. I said, “I’m getting $50.00 a week and reckon he has to have the same amount as he has three kids and a wife.” Harold said, “We were fixing to give you a raise, but I cannot give it to you and pay him too.” I told my publisher, “Give it to Will and sign him”! He said “Are you sure?” I said, “That’s how much I believe in him.” The publishing company signed him and we’ve been friends ever since.
To read the entire Jan/Feb 2009 Legends issue feature, “Hank Cochran: Humble Captain,” click here.
A private, family memorial will be held for Cochran in the near future, and a public service will follow. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that those wishing to honor Hank make donations to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Foundation.