♫ Ted Hawkins, Happy Hour
🍺 Düxer Bock
Words & photos: Vincent Abbate
What’s the connection between a Mississippi-born busker and a beer named for a local legend and unofficial neighborhood mascot in Cologne, Germany? Is there a connection at all? I pause … and do believe I’ve found something.
It’s the juxtaposition of darkness and light in Ted Hawkins’s songs. The mix of pathos and humor. Hawkins wrote from a checkered personal history that came out sounding cheerful. It’s sad music that makes you happy. Similarly … Germans aren’t the most happy-go-lucky tribe on the face of the earth. A checkered history? Whoo boy.
But Rhinelanders and particularly the people of Cologne are known throughout the land for their Frohnatur – their cheerful, optimistic nature. Any excuse for a party and they’ll throw one. I’ve always thought of my adopted home city as Germany’s answer to New Orleans, just with bad weather and crappier music.
Cologne is also the place where I discovered Hawkins, as with so many of my favorite musicians. I don’t recall who it was, but somebody – a guest at a weekly blues event I used to attend in the 90s – told me to check out Hawkins’s then-current album The Next Hundred Years. I did and was blown away. That album, released just months before Hawkins’s death on New Year’s Day 1995 and the one that broke him internationally, is on my list of 100 favorite albums of any genre. Maybe it’s in the top 50.
I’ve chosen Happy Hour, one of his earlier albums, instead. Why? Let’s crack open a Düxer Bock on the square bearing the same name and explore the work of this dark genius …