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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Live Fast, Love Hard

posted by on January 10 at 15:25 PM


Today I bring you an excellent classic-country-music book, released just a few months ago: Live Fast, Love Hard, by Diane Diekman, the official, and only, biography of the amazing Faron Young [swoon]. This book is so compelling, I plowed through it in only a few sittings.

I’ve professed a lot of love on this blog for certain honky tonkers, but I’ve been keeping Faron Young, one of my most cherished, to myself. Yes, I have mentioned how handsome he is, but otherwise there’s been no timely reason to write about him. While I’ve been a huge fan of Faron’s music for years, I can’t say I really knew much about him, other than that he’d killed himself in the ’90s. I always felt so bad for him, because he was so great and once so popular, and he’d been forgotten.

Diekman was personally acquainted with Faron, and she did a ton of research for the book—it’s full of so many tiny details and anecdotes from many sources, including Faron’s family and peers. Her research is impressive. There are lots of great stories about Faron and other country stars of the ’50s and ’60s. I was kind of shocked by what these twentysomething men were doing while out on the road back then; let’s just say nothing has changed where sex and drugs are concerned.

Tears were streaming down my face once I got to the end of the book. I knew how the story was going to end, but I didn’t know how much turmoil Faron lived with and inflicted on others throughout his life, dealing with depression and alcoholism and severe daddy issues. When he was sober, he was a kind, fun, generous man; when he was drunk, he was mean, manipulative, and downright cruel. There is a lot of punching in this book—Faron punching various people, various people punching Faron—and most disturbing is the number of times throughout his life that he threatened suicide, and even faked suicide to freak people out (and, I assume, as a cry for help). Despite all that, he remained incredibly loved by and endearing to practically everyone who knew him.

It’s a fascinating story about a man who had a lifelong struggle with depression and intimacy and insecurity, but who hid it so well behind a larger-than-life personality. I guess that’s not really a new story—we all know men like that—but I had no idea the extent of his problems; sadly, his friends and family had an inkling, but they seemed to be helpless due to his stubbornness and a general ignorance of depression back then. While this is a comprehensive portrait of a troubled man, I do feel like there could’ve been more detail about his early career and his songs. But, his story is heartbreaking and exciting, and Diekman nailed it. Get the book.

But who is this guy, other than a mean drunk? Why do I love him so? Well, he’s not just a pretty face; he’s one of the greatest country singers ever. Period. He had an amazing, beautiful voice (and perfect pitch, I learned from Diekman’s book): It could be high, low, nasal, smooth, soaring. His recording career began in the early ’50s and went all the way through the ’70s and into the ’80s; he kept it country all the way. And he was insanely popular.

His music is swoon-worthy. His ballads make me melt, with their perfect combination of aching steel guitar and Faron’s gorgeous voice: songs like “Tattle Tale Tears,” “My Two Open Arms,” “I Miss You Already (And You’re Not Even Gone),” “Sweet Dreams.” But he can also rock out, as evidenced by upbeat hits like “Three Days” (written way back when by Willie Nelson) and “Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young.” And he’s got plenty of shuffles, like the absolutely perfect “Wine Me Up.” And have you heard “It’s Four in the Morning” from 1972? My god, what a song.

I’ve got a couple greatest-hits albums, and I’d highly recommend Live Fast, Love Hard: Original Capitol Recordings, 1952–1962. I wish I had the cash for the $100 Bear Family Records’ five-disc box set. Live Fast, Love Hard: Original Capitol Recordings, 1952–1962 is basically flawless. It’s got all the aforementioned tracks (except “Wine Me Up” and “It’s Four in the Morning”), plus many more, including “Country Girl,” with its bitter chorus, “Now you’ve gone and left me/you’re with somebody new/but I wonder if you told him/I bought the clothes on you”; the equally bitter “A Place for Girls Like You”; the upbeat “Alone with You”; hell, they’re all great songs—I don’t really need to list them all. And note the hot cover photo:


Really, anyone who likes classic country and hasn’t heard Faron Young needs to check him out. You will be an instant convert.

Here’s “Hello Walls” (also written by Willie Nelson, and a more poppy number), which was my introduction to Faron Young, via my dad. My dad seems to have had this song perpetually stuck in his head since it came out in 1961; he’s been randomly belting out the opening “hello walls” for as long as I can remember. Sometimes he answers the phone that way.

And here’s “My Dreams,” a more upbeat number.

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He's the favorite of Mrs. Fnarf, who has ten times the taste I do. Remember the Prefab Sprout song that goes "You give me Faron Young's four in the morning"? Now you know. The Capitol stuff is peerless; gets pretty close to pop-crossover in places, which is fine by me. What a voice.

Was he the guy with the guitar-shaped swimming pool, or was that Webb Pierce?

Here's her blog on the subject:

Posted by Fnarf | January 10, 2008 3:58 PM

Oh Fnarf, I can always count on you to appreciate my classic-country posts.

And it's Webb Pierce with the guitar-shaped pool.

Posted by Kim Hayden | January 10, 2008 4:26 PM

fantastic post i wish i knew more about this type of music

Posted by ndrwmtsn | January 10, 2008 4:43 PM

There's only one way to learn, ndrwmtsn. Git t'listenin'.

Kim, we have "Four Walls" in our jukebox. Good enough for ya?

Posted by Fnarf | January 10, 2008 6:00 PM

We always say - If I had Johnny's cash and Charlie's pride I'd be Faron Young.

I don't know why.

Posted by rubyred | January 11, 2008 10:47 AM

The Fnarfs are awesome.

Posted by Kim Hayden | January 11, 2008 11:42 AM

Kim, thanks so much for your review of my book. It's always great to run across someone who appreciates Faron and his music.

Posted by Diane Diekman | January 14, 2008 9:43 AM

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