Describing songs isn't an easy task. There's a powerful synergy that happens when the right words connect with the right beat. And in country music, so much emphasis is put on the "story" that the stakes are even higher. Songwriters, good ones, are often put on pedestals, and no one loves their songwriters more than the country community.
Hank Cochran wasn't a household name, but his songs lit up plenty of them. One of Nashville's most prolific songwriters, he spent 50 years in Music City penning such perennial favorites as "I Fall to Pieces," "Make the World Go Away" and "Ocean Front Property," to name a paltry few. Jamey Johnson, Nashville's modern cross-grained biker boy with a country-purist heart, met Cochran a few years before the writer's passing; Cochran was apparently relentless in pitching Johnson his material. Something between the two clicked, and despite a rocky start, they soon fell into a fast friendship.
Johnson's new Living for a Song, then, is a beautiful send-off to a dear friend. Produced by Cochran's friends, country stalwarts Buddy Cannon and Dale Dodson, this tribute album (costarring everyone from Elvis Costello to Alison Krauss to Willie Nelson) is a heartfelt piece of work that masterfully blends old-school and new country. Crafted with a less-is-more attitude, it features lean instrumentation that creates a warm yet uncluttered place for Cochran's words to shine.
The artists who initially hit with Cochran's songs span generations, including country, jazz and pop stars. With such a deep catalog of riches, it's time to shine the spotlight on his work. Below are just some of the artists who had hits with his gems; the playlist above pairs the original versions with Johnson's star-studded remakes. Plus we added a few surprises because, well, that's just the way we are.