On Wednesday night, the songwriter who brought the world “I Fall to Pieces” and “Make the World Go Away” got a visit at his Hendersonville home from country singer Jamey Johnson. Billy Ray Cyrus and famed producer and songwriter Buddy Cannon showed up soon after.
“We got there and Jamey was already sitting in his bedroom by Hank and singing him songs,” said Cannon, Mr. Cochran’s long-time friend and co-writer. “Billy Ray got his guitar out and started singing, and the next thing you know we were just passing the guitar around Hank’s bed just singing some songs, and Hank was actually trying to sing a long a little bit.”
Mr. Cochran died the next morning following a years-long battle with cancer. He would have been 75 in August.
Mr. Cochran — whom Country Music Hall of Famer Merle Haggard claims as “a great mentor” — wrote or co-wrote such classic songs as Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces” and “She’s Got You,” George Strait’s “Ocean Front Property” and “The Chair,” Eddy Arnold’s “Make the World Go Away” and Ronnie Milsap’s “Don’t You Ever Get Tired (of Hurting Me).”
Cannon, along with Cochran’s family, was by Mr. Cochran’s side when he died. Cannon described the moment as “peaceful,” and said on Thursday that country music had lost one of the cornerstones of its foundation.
“If you pull Hank Cochran’s catalog of songs out of the mix of the Nashville music business, the whole business would be shaped differently than it is now,” Cannon said. “I had the pleasure of writing songs with him, and it was unlike any other co-writing experience I ever had. The guy was magic. Where it is that songwriters plug into to get their stuff they get to write their songs, Hank had a different connection than everybody else.”
Haggard said in a statement, “He was a great friend and a great mentor. Hank was responsible for some of the music that inspired me to do what I do.”
‘I don’t know anybody that didn’t like Hank’
Mr. Cochran was born Garland Perry Cochran on Aug. 2, 1935, in Isola, Miss. His parents divorced when he was 9, and Mr. Cochran briefly moved in with his father in Memphis before being placed in the St. Peter’s Orphan’s Home due to the economic climate of the post-Depression era.
As a boy, Mr. Cochran ran away from the facility several times before going to live with his grandparents. At 10, he was playing guitar and singing in church, and at 12 he and his uncle hitched from their home in Mississippi to New Mexico to work in the oil fields.
By his mid-teen years, Mr. Cochran moved to California, got a job working at Sears & Roebuck in Los Angeles, and went back to school. It was then that he first looked at music as a career possibility.
Mr. Cochran soon met guitar player Eddie Cochran (no relation) and the pair formed The Cochran Brothers, then made friends with other musicians on the scene like Bobby Bare and Harlan Howard. After moderate success, the duo disbanded and Mr. Cochran moved to Nashville.
That was January of 1960. Mr. Cochran got a job at Pamper Music, which was coowned by Ray Price. Price remembers his friend and former employee fondly.
“I hate it,” Price said of Mr. Cochran’s passing. “He was really a good one. He had a great talent and he was there when he was needed. Hank wasn’t hid under any subterfuge. What you saw with Hank is what you got, and it was all good. I don’t know anybody that didn’t like Hank.”
Price said he spoke with Mr. Cochran on Monday. “We got to say goodbye,” Price said. “I knew it was coming and he did, too, but we didn’t want it to happen.”
In 1961, Mr. Cochran scored his first No. 1 as a songwriter — “I Fall to Pieces,” which he co-wrote with Harlan Howard. By 1974, Mr. Cochran had made such a name for himself as a songwriter that he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s Hall of Fame — the only writer to ever receive a unanimous vote.
Over the years, Cochran has also been the recipient of numerous awards from performing rights organization BMI, including recognitions for 3 million plays on “Make the World Go Away,” “Ocean Front Property,” and “I Fall to Pieces.”
In June 2009, a private, surprise celebration of Mr. Cochran’s work at BMI in Nashville attracted Haggard, Elvis Costello, Bobby Bare, Cowboy Jack Clement and Grand Ole Opry star Jeannie Seely (Mr. Cochran’s ex-wife) and others.
“He’s a songwriting icon and everybody knows his songs,” said longtime friend Bobby Bare on Thursday. “Hank wrote from personal feelings, just the way he felt. Hank fell in love a lot and broke up a lot, so he had a lot of feelings. And Hank, like all great songwriters was very aware of all things going on around him, and he was very bright. (Great songwriters) are not afraid to put their feelings on the line. ‘You walk by and I fall to pieces,’” Bare quoted from the Patsy Cline hit, “that says it all right there.’”
‘Going Where the Lonely Go’
Mr. Cochran’s last night was filled with his songs — “Make the World Go Away,” “The Chair” and “Set ’Em Up Joe,” among them — as Cyrus, Johnson and Cannon performed for him.
“Billy sung a Merle Haggard song and he sung his big hit ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ and Hank was singing along in the chorus,” Cannon said. “He was so weak you couldn’t hear him, but he was joining in anyway. It was a very emotional evening.”
When the three performers stopped playing at one point, Mr. Cochran asked them not to leave and they continued. Their visit had come on the heels of a call from Haggard, so the men ended the night with Haggard hit “Going Where the Lonely Go.”
Cyrus was moved to drive with Cannon to Mr. Cochran’s home Wednesday night by the feeling that “there ain’t gonna be no tomorrow.”
“You look at somebody like Hank’s life and think, ‘Man, that’s what it’s all about, writing songs, that’s what this town was built on,’” Cyrus said. “What a great loss, and what a great, great man. He’s at the very top of people who took their pen and paper and touched people’s lives with it.”
Mr. Cochran is survived by his wife Suzi, daughter Booth Calder and three sons, Garland Perry Cochran Jr., James Lee Cochran and Daniel Cochran.
A private, family memorial will be held, and a public service will follow. Details will be forthcoming. In lieu of flowers, the family requests those wishing to honor Hank make donations to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Foundation.
Hank Cochran was born on August 2nd, 1935 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hank_Cochran
August 2nd, 1935
8 + 2 +1+9+3+5 = 28 = his life lesson = what he was here to learn = Overcoming obstacles.
8 + 2 +2+0+0+9 = 21 = his personal year (from August 2nd, 2009 to August 1st, 2010) = A classic. Univerally appreciated.
21 year + 7 (July) = 28 = his personal month (from July 2nd, 2010 to August 1st, 2010) = Personal power.
When his number (28 (8 + 2 +1+9+3+5 = 28)) came up, that’s when he got to live/experience what he was here to live/experience. So this was HIS month!!!
28 month + 15 (15th of the month on Thursday July 15th, 2010) = 43 = his personal day = Having fun with friends.