Author(s): Colin Escott
In his brief life, Hank Williams created one of the defining bodies of American music. Songs like Your Cheatin' Heart, Hey Good Lookin' and Jambalaya sold millions of records and became the model for virtually all country music that followed. But by the time of his death at age twenty-nine, Williams had drunk and drugged and philandered his way through two messy marriages and out of his headline spot on the Grand Ole Opry. Even though he was country music's top seller, toward the end he was so famously unreliable that he was lucky to get a booking in a beer hall. After his death, Williams' records sold more than ever, and have continued to do so in the half-century since. His oft-covered catalog has produced hits for artists ranging from Fats Domino and John Fogerty's Blue Ridge Rangers to Ray Charles and B.J. Thomas; from Bob Dylan and jazz diva Norah Jones, to crooner Perry Como, RB star Dinah Washington, and British punk band, The The. In this definitive account Colin Escott vividly details the singer's stunning rise and his spectacular decline, and reveals much that was previously unknown or hidden about the life of this country music legend.
Now, over sixty years after his death, a major motion picture starring Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen brings Hank Williams' tragic story to the screen. I Saw The Light first premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and will be distributed by Sony Picture Classics in the UK.
An impressive book... Probably the definitive word on Hank Williams' life Boston Globe Our best look yet into Williams' pained, piercing eyes... Escott has peeled away the layers of legend Philadelphia Enquirer Deftly written and ably researched Newsweek Escott mixes careful reporting, a sympathetic viewpoint, and wry and occasionally cutting humour in a blend that makes for fast and interesting reading Boston Globe PRAISE FOR THE FILM I SAW THE LIGHT 'Hiddleston's performance is gutsy and heartfelt, as playful and soulful as the best of Williams's songs' Time Out London The British star makes a compelling, convincing and sometimes downright frightening country singer... Hiddleston's turn slowly reveals itself as one of great intelligence and integrity, as well as a lack of vanity. His Hank isn't often a likable sight, but it's a memorable one. And what it suggests about how sceptical a performer you can be for people to still take succor from your work, to buy into its sincerity, is curious - and bruising. He also has notably good chemistry with Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Audrey with hearty compassion Guardian Hiddleston did all his own singing, and he's extraordinary... Olsen gives a potent performance, showing us how her affection for Hank fought with her pride. BBC.com a thoroughly committed, impressive performance from Tom Hiddleston as Williams (and an even better one from Elizabeth Olsen as his first wife, Audrey) Hiddleston makes for a very effective country singer; he doesn't necessarily sound like Williams, but as with Joaquin Phoenix's Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, the sheer amount of effort the actor took to nail a number of the singer's distinctive tics, hiccups and blue notes is obvious... Olsen's seems to have seeped several layers beneath her skin, and she brings a vital sense of lived-in authenticity to her scenes. Variety Hiddleston sings the Williams catalogue with aplomb in I Saw The Light; as an actor, he's certainly got the ambition to deliver this bravura turn... But as Hanks' tricksy hard-edged wife, Elizabeth Olsen is the film's find - she flashes her deepening talent like a diamond, proving she's got the depth and range for more complex performances. ScreenDaily
Based in the Nashville area, Colin Escott is one of the world's leading experts on country music history. Among his many accomplishments, he co-wrote and co-produced Hank Williams' "Honky Tonk Blues" for PBS in 2004, and was a series consultant and co-writer for BBC-TV's highly acclaimed series on country music "Lost Highway" (2002). His music journalism has been published in two volumes, and he has worked with numerous music legends, including Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash.