Hank Williams Jr.’s ‘A Country Boy Can Survive:’ History Behind Legendary Anthem

by Will Shepard
hank-williams-jrs-a-country-boy-can-survive-history-behind-legendary-anthem

One of Hank Williams Jr.’s most iconic songs is “A Country Boy Can Survive.” Even though the song only reached number two on the Billboard Top Country Singles chart, it is arguably more popular now more than ever.

Williams released the single in his album The Pressure is On in January of 1982. The song remains a calling card for almost every country music fan across the world. The song is a glorification of old-fashion values, and to this day, still characterizes Williams’ career.

Another song, “All My Rowdy Friends,” from the same album did better at the time of release on the Billboard charts, but that’s no surprise considering how iconic the song is.

So, let’s take a deeper look at the history behind the legendary song from one of country music’s favorite artists.

History of the Famous Song

The song stands out for a number of important reasons. Even as the song celebrates working-class Americans, it also pays tribute to rednecks born to fish on a trotline. It also holds the word of God in high regard, speaking to the importance of preachers.

Additionally, Williams’ song is a musical work of art. The guitar playing is elite. Williams builds the acoustic levels as the lyrics begin to say more important things throughout the song. Furthermore, the song is a fast-paced version of modern country music that remained unparalleled for many years. If anything, that’s the telltale sign of a Hank Williams Jr. track.

The song still enjoys support from people who value their stubbornness to survive. Its lyrics talk about how country folks don’t feel that big cities provide the same environment for themselves. But, the singer becomes friends with a New Yorker and their friendship blossoms.

Williams even decides to send him some wine. But, later on in the story, the mistrust of being in a big city comes back around when his friend is murdered.

However sad the narrator is, the message seems to be that those who live passionately must persevere no matter what. So, Williams sings about how country boys must cherish being stubborn and be alright with that defining them.

“And we say grace, and we say, ma’am. And if you ain’t into that we don’t give a damn.”

This song is certainly a redneck anthem, and has no qualms about being so.

Hank Williams Jr. Revisits the Song

Delving deeper into the history of the song, Williams received backlash for it. He was labeled in several different ways for his casting of cities as evil things in the world.

But, the song appeals to the heart of Americans. While every line can be dissected and interpreted in many ways, it is important to note that the song is geared towards those who provide for themselves.

At a surface level, the song gears toward people who only need the bare necessities in life – a fishing pole or a shotgun to eat with. However, nowadays, it can be meant for anyone who strives to live and makes do with anything at their disposal.

Almost thirty years after the release of “A Country Boy Can Survive,” the 9/11 attacks took place. Williams thought that to make a tribute to America, he should re-write and release the song again. So, he did just that.

“America Will Survive” was born in the aftermath. The song reached number 45 on the Billboard country charts. Williams wrote the song again, glorifying the everyday life of people in America.

So, examine each of the lyrics and interpret them as they fit into your own life.

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