By Jason SchneiderAlthough not widely recognized as a performer, as a songwriter, Hank Cochran was one of the defining figures of country music's golden age of the early 1960s. Cochran died at his home near Nashville on Thursday (July 15), aged 74, after a bout with pancreatic cancer, his publicist said in a statement.
Among Cochran's best known songs are "I Fall to Pieces" (co-written with Harlan Howard) and "She's Got You," both hits for Patsy Cline, which helped propel her to international stardom just prior to the plane crash that took her life in 1963. Cline's other breakthrough hit at the time was "Crazy," written by Willie Nelson, whom Cochran had discovered at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge in Nashville, immediately persuading the bosses at the publishing company he worked for, Pamper Music, to hire.
The bond between Cochran and Nelson remained unbreakable from then on. Nelson went on to record many Cochran compositions, such as "Undo the Right," "Any Old Arms Won't Do" and "Can I Sleep in Your Arms." Cochran's other major credits include "Make the World Go Away," made famous by Eddy Arnold, and "A Little Bitty Tear," a huge hit for Burl Ives.
Cochran was born Garland Perry Cochran, August 2, 1935, in Isola, MS and spent many of his formative years in a Memphis orphanage following his parents' divorce. At age 12, an uncle took him under his wing and taught him guitar while each worked in the New Mexico oil fields, and at 16, Cochran hitchhiked to California, where he befriended a young singer/guitarist from Minnesota named Eddie Cochran. Despite not being related, they began performing together as the Cochran Brothers, and made a few recordings before Eddie broke away and launched his hugely influential career in rockabilly, which was sadly cut short by a fatal car accident in 1960.
Hank opted to forge a country music career in Nashville, but by 1960, he had settled into the job of songwriting, once hired by Pamper. Merle Haggard, George Jones, Ray Price, Vern Gosdin and George Strait were just some of the artists who regularly drew material from Cochran's songbook over the ensuing four decades. Cochran was enshrined in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1974, the only artist up until then to be elected by a unanimous vote.