1. “MAKE THE WORLD GO AWAY”written by: Hank Cochran
Hank Cochran was inspired to write this because of a line he heard an actor say in a movie. Song publisher Hal Smith told Cochran that it was the worst song he’d ever written, because he didn’t believe that anyone really wanted to make the world go away. Cochran was determined to prove Smith wrong. Although it is now considered to be a country classic, the song was first introduced by pop torch singer Timi Yuro in the summer of 1963. That same year, Ray Price made the song a country hit. Just two years later, Eddy Arnold sang it on a thematic album of “world” songs. This 1965 version became both a country and a pop smash. Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, Tom Jones and Martina McBride are among the many who have subsequently recorded “Make the World Go Away.” It is Hank Cochran’s most-recorded song.
“Hank’s favorite singer was Alison Krauss,” says his widow, Suzi Cochran. “He always used to listen to Alison Krauss and every new CD that came out, Hank had, but he never met her. When I heard she was doing ‘Make the World Go Away,’ I was thrilled to death. Hank would have been thrilled. It turned out wonderfully, just the way it would have been if Hank would have produced it. Perfect.”
2. “I FALL TO PIECES”written by: Hank Cochran & Harlan Howard
Grand Ole Opry star Jan Howard, co-writer Harlan Howard’s then-wife, sang the first demo of this song. Producer Owen Bradley brought it to Patsy Cline, who initially hated it, because she thought it was too pop sounding. Cochran gleefully reported that Cline liked it just fine when it became her first No. 1 record. It was also Cochran’s first big hit as a songwriter. Since that 1961 version, “I Fall to Pieces” has been recorded by Linda Ronstadt, Conway Twitty, Crystal Gayle and many more. A duet version of the song by Trisha Yearwood and Aaron Neville earned them a Grammy Award in 1994.
“I always loved Patsy’s recording of it,” Haggard says. “I was just hoping I could do that.
“Hank was unique,” Haggard says. “He wrote the kind of music that we needed. He understood what each artist was and he was able to tailor a song for you and usually brought it to you in person.
“Hank was a lot of fun to be around. Usually when you were around Hank, you wound up writing a song. He was always writing, always writing. That’s really who he was: he was the songwriter.
“He was really an artist who chose not to be an artist,” Haggard says. “All the artists respected his ability to perform a song. One of the things that was a secret about him getting so many good cuts was that the singers wanted to see if they could just sing that good. He had a real light, timid voice, but if you got down close to it, it was really good. Singers that understood wanted to sing his songs right. I know I did.”
Adds Suzi Cochran, “It’s great that Merle sings ‘I Fall to Pieces.’ To hear Merle sing it is wonderful. That was a special song to Hank because of Patsy. He and Patsy were really close. They were really good friends.”
3. “A WAY TO SURVIVE”written by: Moneen Carpenter & Hank Cochran
During his early Nashville years, Hank Cochran wrote for Pamper Music. The company was co-owned by Ray Price, so he often got the first crack at new Cochran tunes. Price introduced “A Way to Survive” in 1966, and it has proved to be an evergreen song. In 1997, Gene Watson made it the title tune of an album.
“I told Buddy that Leon would be a good one to do one of these Hank songs with because of the obvious connection,” Johnson says. “Leon and I met at a studio in Nashville that’s meant a lot to me over the years. It’s where I recorded Lonesome Song and a lot of The Guitar Song. He came by that studio right there to do that part.”
4. “DON’T TOUCH ME”written by: Hank Cochran
Future Grand Ole Opry star Jeannie Seely was working as a secretary at Liberty Records on the West Coast when Hank Cochran was recording for the label. After hearing her music, he suggested she move to Nashville. He wrote the torchy “Don’t Touch Me” for her, and it earned Seely a 1966 Grammy Award. They were married to one another between 1969 and 1979. Seely’s emotional singing led to her billing as “Miss Country Soul,” and “Don’t Touch Me” subsequently became a 1969 R&B hit for Bettye Swann and was also notably recorded by soul singer Etta James in 1997.
5. “YOU WOULDN’T KNOW LOVE”written by: Hank Cochran & Dave Kirby
By the time Ray Price introduced “You Wouldn’t Know Love” in 1970, his Pamper Music had been sold to Tree International Publishing. Cochran went to Tree with the company. By that time, Price had scored on the popularity charts with five previous Cochran songs, so he was still eager to find a sixth, wherever it was published.
“Ray is a good definition of an old Marine, a rock-solid spirit,” Johnson says. “A guy whose direction is so strong and whose will can’t be bent. I hear that his dogs don’t even come when he calls!”
6. “I DON’T DO WINDOWS”written by: Hank Cochran
This is one of Jamey Johnson’s favorite Cochran songs. Cochran introduced it, himself, on a 1980 solo album titled Make the World Go Away. When Willie Nelson cast him for a part in the country-music movie Honeysuckle Rose, Cochran reprised the song on the film’s soundtrack that same year. The Honeysuckle Rose soundtrack album has sold more than two million copies.
“I like the song because it’s so irreverent, which is certainly one of Hank’s qualities,” says Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel. “Recording the song was so simple because Buddy Cannon and Jamey just said they cut a demo of it in Nashville. Asleep at the Wheel has a very distinctive style. I said to Buddy and Jamey, ‘You know, the cut you did in Nashville of the demo is fantastic. Nashville has the best players in the world. We don’t really want to just copy that because you’ve always done it as good as it could be done.’
“Buddy said, ‘No, I just want you to do what y’all do.’ So it was like falling off a log. We went in and did it in two or three takes maybe. First of all, it’s live. We all sit there and we play it. It’s got a good little slide kind of feel.”
7. “SHE’LL BE BACK”written by: Hank Cochran, Dale Dodson & Red Lane
“She’ll Be Back” was originally recorded as “He’ll Be Back” by Lee Ann Womack on her 2002 album Something Worth Leaving Behind. She also re-recorded it on film for the 2012 Cochran bio-documentary Livin’ For a Song. When Elvis Costello recorded his Almost Blue LP in Nashville in 1981, he included a version of Cochran’s “He’s Got You” on the collection. So the British pop star has long been a fan of traditional country music and is thus a longtime fan of Hank Cochran.
8. “WOULD THESE ARMS BE IN YOUR WAY”written by: Hank Cochran, Vern Gosdin & Red Lane
During his brief life as a recording artist, Keith Whitley performed several Hank Cochran songs. “Would These Arms Be in Your Way” became a Top-40 hit for the singer in 1987. A decade later, co-writer Vern Gosdin released his version of the song. It has also been recorded by Mark Chesnutt.
“That’s a fantastic song,” says Willie Nelson. “It’s great, just the title of it. He could have just sold titles.”
9.“THE EAGLE”written by: Hank Cochran, Red Lane & Mack Vickery
Waylon Jennings’ 1991 recording of “The Eagle” became Hank Cochran’s last Top-40 hit as a tunesmith, to date.
“I was introduced to Hank by my friend Dean Dillon,” says George Strait. “They wrote one of the most clever songs which I was lucky enough to get to record called ‘The Chair.’ I wish I had known Hank better, but unfortunately our paths only crossed a few times. Those times, however, were very special.
“I remember him coming to my office in Nashville one time with Dean. I was in the process of recording a Christmas album and they had just written ‘For Christ’s Sake, It's Christmas.’ They played it live for me there and it just blew me away. I recorded it that day. ‘The Eagle’ was a song I wasn't that familiar with, but what a message it sends, especially in this day and time. I had thought about Jamey and me doing ‘The Chair’ together, but after he played me ‘The Eagle,’ it was so obvious. I'm very proud of Jamey for doing this and am so glad I was able to be included.”
Suzi Cochran says, “’The Eagle’ was written about the Gulf War. It’s a war cry, the eagle representing the U.S.”
10. “A-11”written by: Hank Cochran
Although never a giant hit, this Cochran song is something of a honky-tonk “standard” and is performed by many. Johnny Paycheck did the original version in 1965, and it has also been recorded by Buck Owens, Clinton Gregory, Norma Jean and Darryle Singletary, among others.
“Buddy (Cannon) sent the song to me,” Ronnie Dunn says. “I think Buddy was probably doing the casting there and did it because it’s just hard-core honky-tonk. It’s from an era when country music was pretty much confined to beer joints and clubs. It refers to a jukebox. I mean, for him to be able to write stuff that goes from the gamut of ‘I Fall to Pieces’ and ‘Make the World Go Away’ to a song like ‘A-11,’ which is pretty primal straight forward – I call it beer-joint music—is pretty cool.”
Haggard says, “’A-11 is a wonderful song, one of the all-time greats. I guess you can call it a standard.”
11. “I’D FIGHT THE WORLD”written by: Joe Allison & Hank Cochran
After Hank married Suzi Cochran in 1982, she took him home to meet her folks in Pittsburgh. He told them he’d written this song just for her, and everyone cried when he sang it. She found out a decade later that the song was, in fact, more than 20 years old. Among its many recordings, the one by Jim Reeves is probably the best known. Although Bobby Bare never had a major hit with a Hank Cochran song, the two were lifelong friends. In fact, Cochran was the best man at the wedding of Bobby and Jeannie Bare in 1964. Bare previously recorded “I’d Fight the World” on his hit Detroit City album of 1963.
“The song I did was a song that I had recorded back in the early sixties,” Bare says. “I chose that song because, number one, I wouldn’t have to learn a new song. Number two, I’ve always loved that song. I was living in L.A. in the sixties and Hank would come to L.A. and he’d be out at my house and we would go over songs and that was one of them.
“Actually, Hank didn’t play this song for me. Eddy Arnold recorded it. I learned it on one of his albums and I just loved it. Hank didn’t play it for me, but Hank taught it to me. His phrasing, of course, is always impeccable.
“This current cut compared to the one that I did back in the sixties is better really, in my opinion, because it’s simpler, not as tricky. It’s straight-ahead. The one I did, of course, I was selling millions of records to kids, so they had to sweeten it up with strings and stuff like that. This one is just straight-ahead good. Good feeling. I think we did Hank justice on this one.”
12. “DON’T YOU EVER GET TIRED OF HURTING ME”written by: Hank Cochran
This song was Cochran’s favorite of his many compositions. It has been a big hit three times, most recently in 1989 for Ronnie Milsap. Willie Nelson has previously recorded it as a duet with Ray Price, who sang the original version of the song in 1966.
“I learned some new things,” Nelson says. “I learned Hank wrote some songs that I hadn’t heard before. I thought I knew all of Hank’s songs. But I chose the one that I really liked, ‘Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me.’ Ray Price had such a fantastic record of that and so that was the one that I thought I would want to do. There’s a lot of great songs on there.”
Adds Haggard, “I recorded that, but Ray Price, I think, had the best well-known record on that. I even wrote a line on that song, so I know Hank didn’t write that line. When I said it, I did it at the session. When the take was over, Hank hit the button and he said, ‘I’d a thought of it eventually.’”
Says Bobby Bare, “My favorite Hank song is “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me.’ I love that song. Who besides Hank could come up with a line like, ‘You make my eyes run over all the time?” That’s classic.
“The reason Hank wrote so simple was because he didn’t know any big words,” Bare says. “Hank was not an educated person; he wrote strictly from emotion, and that’s what I love. The people who use big words are just trying to cover the fact that they’re afraid to put their emotions on the line. Hank was the most fearless person I ever met when it came to writing a song. He would lay it out and say, ‘Here it is.’ Unbelievable. That nerve doesn’t exist anymore.”
13. “THIS AIN’T MY FIRST RODEO”written by: Max D. Barnes, Hank Cochran & Vern Gosdin
The song was born when Cochran was having a recording studio built in his garage. Co-writers Vern Gosdin and Max D. Barnes were at the house when Cochran overheard one contractor say to another, “This ain’t my first rodeo.” The three began working on the song instantly.
“Man, I’m not going to do a duets record and not call Lee Ann,” Johnson says. “To me, she’s one of the finest singers out there. If it’s country music, it’s a good fit for her. That was just a given. I know she’s a fan of all kinds of Hank songs over the years because it’s the same stuff I listen to. Ain’t nobody better, and I can say that for everybody on this record too.”
14. “LOVE MAKES A FOOL OF US ALL”written by: Hank Cochran / Glenn Martin
Hank Cochran introduced this poignant song on his 1980 LP Make the World Go Away. The song gained further prominence when Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard recorded it on their 1987 duet album Seashores of Old Mexico.
“It’s probably one of his least-known songs,” Nelson says. “It’s a really great song.”
“Kris Kristofferson picked that one out,” Johnson says. “It’s one of my favorites.”
15. “EVERYTHING BUT YOU”written by: Hank Cochran / Willie Nelson
This song dates back to Hank Cochran and Willie Nelson’s earliest days together in Nashville. Nelson recorded a demo tape of it and six other tunes in 1961. They were stored in a suitcase and forgotten until Nelson’s parents re-discovered them nearly 15 years later. After that, “Everything But You” and its song-demo companions were released on an obscure triple LP called Willie Treasures. When Nelson activated his own Lone Star Records label, he re-issued these same demos on his 1978 LP Face of a Fighter.
16. “LIVING FOR A SONG”written by: Hank Cochran / David Holster / Bo Roberts
Suzi Cochran says, “This is my version of how this song got on the album and why it’s so wonderful. Hank and two friends wrote that song. Somebody brought it to Hank and Hank wrote the second half of the song, then he gave it back to them. But Hank always considered that his biography."
“They were in the studio and I kept saying, ‘You have to listen to ‘Living For a Song.’ Well, I knew every time I was handing it to them, they weren’t listening to it. So there was one thing they needed and I sent down the master of ‘Living For a Song.’ About 20 minutes later, Buddy called me up and said, ‘Who owns that?’ ‘I do.’ He said, ‘We’re going to use it.’ Then it came back just how I saw it in my head because of all of his dear friends on that. It’s unbelievable how it came out.”
Haggard says, “Hank’s ability to perform comes across right there. I mean, he’s in there with some of the best singers in the world and he gets it across better. That’s just the way he was: he was a great entertainer. He entertained the entertainers.”