Thursday, November 08, 2007


Honky-tonker with an instantly identifiable voice. Sang "The Wild Side of Life." Died of lung cancer. According to the Los Angeles Times:
Mr. Thompson died at his home in Keller, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. "He was battling aggressive lung cancer," said his spokesman, Tracy Pitcox.

His career stretched more than 60 years, and he charted 79 hits in five decades, from his first, "Humpty Dumpty Heart" in 1948 through "Once in a Blue Moon" in 1983. But even after the hits stopped, Mr. Thompson maintained an intensive tour schedule, playing upward of 250 shows a year for most of his career. He performed as recently as Oct. 8 in his native Waco, a day that was declared "Hank Thompson Day" by Texas Governor Rick Perry and Waco Mayor Virginia DuPuy.

"He was a stalwart of the honky-tonk and Western swing traditions," John Rumble , senior historian for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, said yesterday. "He stayed right with that through all of country's various experimentations with pop sounds and rock sounds and folk or what have you."

Mr. Thompson, however, moved beyond traditional venues by embracing new performance opportunities, being among the first country stars to host a TV show, to perform in Las Vegas, and to record a live album. He also recognized and nurtured young talent, mentoring the careers of Merle Travis and Wanda Jackson among others.

"The Wild Side of Life," written by Arlie Carter and William Warren and one of the few hits Mr. Thompson had with a song he didn't write, held the No. 1 spot in 1952 for 15 weeks. It shocked listeners for its unvarnished portrayal of a woman who leaves her husband for a life of good times in the honky-tonks: "I didn't know God made honky-tonk angels/I might have known you'd never make a wife/You gave up the only one who ever loved you/And went back to the wild side of life."
He is survived by his wife, Ann.

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