Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Heaven couldn't hold his songs

Hank Cochran, now there was a blessed songwriter.

The way he put words down on paper and turned them into country classics could give a person religion.  Or at least make you consider the prospect of a Man Upstairs.

That's who Cochran credited for songs like "Make the World Go Away," the Eddie Arnold chestnut that ranks among the finest country songs ever penned.  Cochran was in a movie theatre with a date when that one came to him like a lightning bolt.  In the time it took him to rush back to his Nashville apartment he had the song written in his head.

"But that's the way most of the really good ones come to me -- zap!" he told a writer at the Jackson Clarion-Ledger in 2003 before his induction into the Mississippi Music Hall of Fame. "I tell people all the time, I don't write songs. God writes 'em, and I just hold the pen. They think I'm kidding, but it's true."

No sense arguing with that.  "Make the World Go Away," "I Fall to Pieces" (co-written with Harland Howard), "Funny Way of Laughin' " and "She's Got You" seem to have dropped from the heavens.  For four decades Cochran put songs on the country music charts and helped in the legend making of stars like Arnold and Patsy Cline.  Dozens of artists across the music spectrum recorded his songs, from Burl Ives to Elvis Costello.

But most of them were pure country. He wrote "Set 'Em Up Joe" for Vern Gosdin and co-wrote "The Chair" and "Ocean Front Property" for George Strait.  He gave a struggling songwriter named Willie Nelson his start. Three of his songs are among CMT's 100 Greatest Songs of Country Music.

But today his pen is still. Cochran left us last Thursday, we presume, to join his Great Collaborator. He was 74 and the cause of death was listed as cancer. Do yourself a favor and listen to some of those wonderful songs.

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't heard that he died. What great songs he left us.