High Wide & Handsome

Album: High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project (2009)

Songfacts®:

  • "High Wide & Handsome" is the title song from Loudon Wainwright III's twelfth studio album High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project, which won a Grammy award for Best Traditional Folk Album. Poole was a banjo picker and lead singer for the North Carolina Ramblers, known throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s for classic covers like "Sweet Sunny South," "White House Blues," "He Rambled" and "Take a Drink on Me." Wainwright pays homage to Poole by covering many of his songs, but he sneaks a few originals on the album, including "High Wide & Handsome," a testament to Poole's fast-living, hard-drinking and generally hell-raising life:

    Can't quit what will kill me
    So why even bother?
    I love this hard living. So why even try?
    I'll be high, wide and handsome when I kick the bucket
    I'll be high, wide and handsome on the day I die


    What he couldn't quit did indeed kill him. Poole was just 39 when he died on May 21, 1931 after a 13-week alcohol binge ended in heart failure. But his legacy lives on through other singers like Wainwright. "I had such a strong identification with the rambling, hard drinking, crazy southern showman," Wainwright remembers. As an up-and-comer in the '70s, he even dreamed of writing a film about Poole's life and starring as the legend, but, some 40 years later, he offered High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project, making a "sonic bio-pic of sorts."

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