New York City, April 12 – The Pulitzer Prize Board has awarded a posthumous Special Citation to country music icon Hank Williams for his lifetime achievement as a musician, Columbia University announced today.
The citation praises Williams for “his craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life.”
That the writer/singer of “Honky Tonkin'” and “Hey, Good Lookin'” would get an award like the Pulitzer once would have been sacrilege.
“The citation, above all, recognizes the lasting impact of Williams as a creative force that influenced a wide range of other musicians and performers,” said Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes. “At the same time, the award highlights the Board’s desire to broaden its Music Prize and recognize the full range of musical excellence that might not have been considered in the past.”
Shorter Gissler: “We used to be artsy fartsy snobs!”
My mother knew Williams in Montgomery in the late 30s, or knew of him, somewhat crossed paths. In her mid teens she played steel guitar (“Hawaiian guitar” back then) on a radio program and says he, a couple of years younger, hung out around the station, and at other music venues. She had no idea of his amazing talent, though. She can be a little snobby, I have to say, so she probably didn’t give him the time of day, much less a good listen. Who’s sorry now?
Also in opening-the-arts-to-the-lowly-masses news today, Meryl Streep was honored with a membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters. This is a pretty exclusive club and she’s the first artist elected solely for acting, and this is seen either as the collapse of culture, or the democratization of art, depending on your point of view.
The inductees [of the special category Streep’s membership is in] demonstrate again how far the academy has changed from its frankly snobbish roots, when modernists, women, non-whites and Jews were not welcome and the presence of a “lowly” actress, even one as talented as Streep, might have set off mass resignations.
And the gate crashing continues.