Hank Cochran: Country songwriter best known for Patsy Cline's hit 'I Fall to Pieces'

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The Independent Online

With over 500 recorded songs, Hank Cochran was a prolific and successful country-music writer. He rarely strayed from country music but "I Fall to Pieces" and "Make the World Go Away" became standards known the world over. He had considerable integrity and he would say, "I would rather have a friend than a hit."

Cochran's early life possessed all the drama of a country song. He was born Garland Perry Cochran to poverty-stricken parents in Isola, Mississippi in 1935. His parents divorced when he was nine. His mother, unable to cope, placed his sister in a home and sent him to his father. His father, now in Memphis, soon tired of the responsibility and placed him in an orphanage. After running away, Hank was sent to live with his grandparents, where he started singing and playing guitar. When he was 13 he went to New Mexico with his uncle Otis and they found jobs in an oil field. On one occasion, while a leak was being corrected, a mistake meant that the young boy was hoisted 90 feet in the air by a derrick, with just a rope around his waist. His uncle left the oil field but he stayed on for a while and bought his own guitar.

When Cochran was 17, he moved to California and started playing small clubs and doing radio work, calling himself Hank Cochran. He was joined by 16-year-old Eddie Cochran, a newcomer to California himself. Although not related, they called themselves the Cochran Brothers, recording three singles for the Ekko label, toured with the country star Lefty Frizzell, and appeared on TV and radio. Elvis Presley was making his presence felt and they recorded a rock'n'roll single, "Tired and Sleepy", after which they split up, with Eddie becoming a huge star before his premature death.

In 1959 Cochran moved to Nashville and promoted Pamper Music's new songs, including his own. He befriended another writer, Harlan Howard, and they wrote Patsy Cline's weepie "I Fall to Pieces" (1961), and Cochran wrote another of her successes, "She's Got You" (1962). Cochran recognised the talents of Willie Nelson and he wrote his first chart success, "Willingly" (1962). Cochran and Howard wrote a superb country song for George Jones, "You Comb Her Hair" (1963).

In the early 1960s, the folk singer and actor Burl Ives recorded country songs in Nashville, and Cochran wrote his successes "A Little Bitty Tear" and "Funny Way of Laughin' ". In 1963 he wrote the ballad "Make the World Go Away" for Ray Price, which became an international hit for Eddy Arnold.

Jeannie Seely had a country hit with "Don't Touch Me" (1966) and she recorded an album of his songs, Thanks, Hank (1967). They were married from 1969 to 1979. Cochran recorded albums of his own songs, such as Hits from the Heart (1963) and Going in Training (1965). Other successes included "Don't You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurting Me)", sung by Ray Price in 1966 and Ronnie Milsap in 1989; "It's Not Love (But It's Not Bad)" for Merle Haggard in 1972; and "I'd Fight the World", a posthumous hit for Jim Reeves in 1974.

Cochran had an up-and-down life, with frequent treatment for alcoholism. He presented the TV show Austin City Limits in 1979, and featured in the Willie Nelson film Honeysuckle Rose singing "Make the World Go Away" with Seely.

In 1985, he teamed up with a new writer, Dean Dillon, and wrote "The Chair" (1985) and "Ocean Front Property" (1987) for George Strait. Vern Gosdin recorded several of his songs on Chiselled in Stone (1988), while Cochran worked with Billy Don Burns on Desperate Men (1997), which included the tribute song "Patsy". He released his final album, Livin' for a Song, in 2002, with its autobiographical title track.

Spencer Leigh

Garland Perry Cochran (Hank Cochran), songwriter: born Isola, Mississippi 2 August 1935; married five times (one son, three daughters); died Hendersonville, Tennessee 15 July 2010.