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Concert to commemorate two country icons

Special to The PREVIEW

At 4 p.m. New Year’s Day,  a special concert at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts presented by Daniel Lindsey, D.C. Duncan and Jeff Hibschman will commemorate the lives and musical legacies of country artists Hank Williams and Townes Van Zandt.

Part of the proceeds of the event will benefit the Americana Project at the high school, a course that teaches students to compose and perform their own music.

New Year’s Day marks the 60th anniversary of the death of country music icon Hank Williams, born in Mt. Olive, Ala., on Sept. 17, 1923.  Williams was born with a painful spinal defect that was later exacerbated by surgery  intended to correct the problem.  As a result, he became reliant on pain killers.  In spite of his affliction, he wrote and performed some of the most beloved songs in recent American history, including “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Hey Good Lookin’,”  “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and many others.

Williams began his career as a teenager, having learned blues guitar from Rufus “Tee-tot” Payne.  A recording session in Nashville in 1946 led to an MGM contract in 1947, resulting in his first big hit, “Move It On Over.”   By 1950, he was a touring and recording star, reaching audiences far beyond the country scene with his songs and lyrics.  These songs are still performed by artists of many genres to appreciative audiences. Sadly, in 1953, while sitting in the back seat of a Cadillac on his way to a concert, he died at the young age of 29. Over 25,000 mourners passed his coffin on Jan. 4 in Montgomery, Ala., where he is buried.

New Year’s Day also marks the 16th anniversary of the death of country music singer, performer and poet Townes Van Zandt.  Van Zandt was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on March 7, 1944, into a family that had a long illustrious history in the oil and cattle industry. Van Zandt County in east Texas was named for his family.

He was inspired by Elvis Presley’s performance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956.  His father gave him a guitar for Christmas the same year and he began learning to play while wandering through the woods and countryside.

His family moved to Boulder, Colo., in 1958.  Van Zandt remembered his time in Colorado with great fondness, referring to it in his songs, “My Proud Mountains” and “Colorado Girl.”

In 1962, Van Zandt was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was treated with insulin shock treatments that erased much of his long-term memory.  Though deemed a genius, Van Zandt battled bouts of depression that kept him from succeeding in college.  His illness led to disastrous issues with alcohol and drugs.

The years between 1968 and 1973 would prove to be his most prolific years of writing and performing.  Yet, despite critical acclaim by his peers as a singer/song writer, Van Zandt was considered a cult figure during his lifetime, never realizing his success with the broader public.  His songs were later picked up and made popular by such notables as Emmy Lou Harris, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and others.  Bob Dylan was a big fan of his writing as well.  Van Zandt died 44 years to the day after his idol, Hank Williams, at age 52.

“It will be an honor to perform the music of these two amazing men who gave so much to the country music world,” says Daniel Lindsey.  “We will leave some room in the front for people to dance in the New Year with some really great music.”

Tickets are now on sale for $25.  To purchase tickets in advance, call 382-1200.

This story was posted on December 20, 2012.