Hank Williams Jr. is known for many things: his presence on Monday Night Football, a history of outspoken (and often controversial) political opinions ... and, oh yeah, being the son of Hank Williams.
Williams Jr. is also known for his rambunctious, rowdy style of music, and how prolific he has been in putting it out: He has released 56 studio albums and 25 compilation albums throughout his 50-ish-year-long career. His style has evolved over the years (from covering his father's songs to the boisterous, rock-infused country he's known for now), and there are a few songs that have risen above the rest as true standouts.
Below, The Boot counts down our Top 10 songs from the 2020 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee.
"I'm for Love"From 'Five-O' (1985)
Williams Jr. has a clear message in this song: He’s tired of being told what people are against, so he wants to explain what he’s for. He knows the “Banker’s against the farmer / The farmer’s against the wall / The doctor is against me smoking / And the devil is against us all,” but that’s not what he’s focusing; instead, Williams Jr. is concerned with two things: love and happiness. The sentiment was popular enough to land “I’m for Love” at the No. 1 spot on the country charts for a week.
"The Conversation"From 'Waylon and Company' (1983)
Williams Jr. and Waylon Jennings team up for “The Conversation,” which is exactly what it sounds like: “Hank, let’s talk about your daddy,” Jennings starts off. The rest of the song is a back-and-forth between the two men, with the agreement that they won’t talk about the elder Williams’ “habits,” only “the music and the man.” The song hit No. 15 on the charts, but it is more memorable for the honest way that Williams Jr. and Jennings confront the loss of their father and contemporary, respectively. Of Williams, they conclude in reverence, “Still the most wanted outlaw in the land."
"Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound"From 'Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound' (1979)
“Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound” comes from Williams Jr.'s 1979 album of the same name and hit No. 2 on the Hot Country Songs chart. The song shows off his classic country vocal chops -- and, appropriately, he uses them to reference his father: “Don’t you play "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry,"" Williams Jr. sings. “‘Cause I’ll get all balled up inside / And I’ll get whiskey bent and hell bound.” It’s easy to imagine Williams Jr. singing this song from a dusty old bar, explaining in a vulnerable moment, as he does, that “Hank’s old songs always make me feel low down."
"All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight"From 'Major Moves' (1984)
Even those who aren’t fans of Williams Jr. are probably familiar with this song. While it was originally released in 1984, its real legacy comes from the time it spent as the theme to Monday Night Football. “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night,” as that MNF version is known, was the Monday Night Football theme from 1989 until 2011, and made its return in 2017, and its association with MNF makes "All My Rowdy Friends ..." one of Williams Jr.’ best-known hits. The song has also earned plenty of attention on its own, though: It was the first winner of the CMA and ACM Music Video of the Year awards, and it earned Williams two Grammys nominations (for Best Country Song and Best Country Vocal Performance, Male).
"Ain't Misbehavin'"From 'Five-O' (1985)
Scanning through Williams Jr.'s discography, listeners might not expect to see a classic 1929 swing cover on his list. Maybe Williams Jr. was counting on that element of surprise when he released his cover of the bluesy classic "Ain't Misbehavin'" in 1985. Whatever his reasons for recording this song, Williams Jr.'s gamble worked, proving that he, indeed, had the vocal chops and the patience to pull it off. As more validation, he earned a Grammys nomination for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
"Born to Boogie"From 'Born to Boogie' (1987)
If you feel like dancing, “Born to Boogie” is the Williams Jr. song for you. It roars out of the gate with a driving guitar lick, four-on-the-floor drums and honky-tonk piano. The 1987 No. 1 also references two of Williams Jr.’s favorite things: his nickname “Bocephus” and his “rowdy friends.” From the piano solos to guitar solos, to Williams Jr. yelping, “I was born to boogie!” it’s hard not to love this song … or at least to not dance to it.
"All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)"From 'The Pressure Is On' (1981)
Before Williams Jr.'s rowdy friends were “coming over tonight” or “here on Monday night,” they were settling down. In "All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)," WIlliams Jr. mourns the fact that his rowdy and famous friends are settling into a calmer lifestyle: George Jones is “gettin’ straight,” Waylon Jennings is “stayin’ home” and Johnny Cash isn’t acting “like he did back in ‘68.” The song hit No. 1 on the charts, and coined Williams Jr.'s signature phrase.
"A Country Boy Can Survive"From 'The Pressure Is On' (1981)
“A Country Boy Can Survive” is simultaneously hopeless and hopeful. It acknowledges that yes, disasters of all sorts are coming (the Mississippi drying up, the stock market crashing, the world ending) ... but the country boys are going to survive. Williams Jr.’s celebration of down-home country grit hit No. 2 on the charts, and is one of his best known hits. He released a Y2K version with George Jones and Chad Brock in 1999, and another a version following 9/11.
"There's a Tear in My Beer"From 'Hank Williams, Jr.'s Greatest Hits, Vol. 3' (1989)
Hank Williams Sr. is the man behind the original version of this song, which he recorded in 1950 but never released. Then, in 1988, his son, Hank Williams Jr., released his father’s song … with a twist. Williams Jr. recorded additional vocals (and added a full band on top of his father’s guitar) and used electronic merging technology to create a music video in which he and his father appeared to be playing the song together. The result was wildly successful, earning the ACM and CMA Music Video of the Year awards, and a Grammys trophy for Best Country Vocal Collaboration.
"Family Tradition"From 'Family Tradition' (1979)
“Family Tradition” is Williams Jr.’s thesis statement on his brand of wild, rebellious country (and the lifestyle that accompanies it). He is not the same type of singer as his father, and he wants people to stop asking him, “Hank, why do you drink? / Hank, why do you roll smoke? / Hank, why must you live out the songs that you wrote?” The song, which marks Williams’ clearest delineation from his father, hit No. 4 on the charts and has become a country music staple.