Growing up under the heavy shadow of one’s parent is a difficult task, made more so when that parent is a very prominent singer/songwriter from the 20th century. Born into his father’s substantial history, Hank Williams Jr. first appeared on stage to perform covers of Hank Williams’ songs.
However, in the 1970s, Williams Jr. charted his own musical course, firmly establishing his presence in the annals of country music history. Collaborating with southern rock luminaries like Waylon Jennings, Toy Caldwell, and Charlie Daniels, he eventually crafted his breakthrough album.
The pivotal point came with the release of “Hank Williams Jr. and Friends” in 1975, marking his official divergence from his father’s influence. Seven years later, he unleashed his iconic single, “A Country Boy Can Survive.”
In the lyrics, Williams Jr. exalts a southern, middle-class lifestyle, seemingly celebrating resilience against urbanization. Yet, beneath the surface lies a commentary on the broader cultural and personal influences of the ’80s. Despite being born in Shreveport, Louisiana, not in West Virginia or under the western skies as the song suggests, Williams Jr. uses the lyrics to champion country folks as the stalwarts against urban encroachment.
Addressing a friend in New York City, he contrasts the rural life taught by his grandpa with the urban demise suffered by his city-dwelling friend. The narrative emphasizes the unyielding spirit of country living:
“Because you can’t starve us out and you can’t make us run’Cause we’re them old boys raised on shotguns.”
This fervor may stem, in part, from Williams Jr.’s near-death experience in 1975, falling on Ajax Peak and enduring severe facial and skull fractures. His subsequent recovery fueled a newfound empowerment, echoing through “A Country Boy Can Survive,” a resonating song that climbed to the number two spot on the Billboard Hot Country Singles charts in March 1982.