As a country mainstay with a healthy dose of outlaw rock ‘n’ roll in his delivery, Eric Church has always counted Hank Williams Jr. as a major influence. On Sunday (Nov. 21), the “Hell of a View” star got to cement his fandom with a tribute performance as Williams Jr. officially became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Church (along with Alan Jackson and Shooter Jennings) was on hand to perform in tribute to the new inductee, and he opted to give his version of one of Williams Jr.’s signature songs, “A Country Boy Can Survive.” Sitting on a stool and accompanied by only his acoustic guitar, Church’s performance relied on expressive delivery over stage theatrics to convey the song’s emotional resonance.
He delivered a searing, quietly potent rendition of “A Country Boy Can Survive,” which is Williams Jr.’s 1982 rallying cry for self-reliance.
The country legend wrote “A Country Boy Can Survive” solo, and it was a hit single, peaking inside the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart’s Top 5. It’s since been covered extensively, including by Church. “A Country Boy Can Survive” is a staple of Church’s live set, and his version appears on the 2017 Record Store Day vinyl edition of his Caught in the Act live album.
Church and Williams Jr. both have outlaw-leaning tendencies and a bit of an outsider streak to them, even if both artists have been generally embraced by the country genre’s most luminary institutions. At the Medallion Ceremony where he officially became a Country Music Hall of Famer, Williams, Jr. gave a brief, on-brand speech that touched on his gratitude, leaned into his roots and celebrated victories big and small — including the fact that his 6-year-old grandson had recently bagged his first deer during a hunting trip.
Hank Williams Jr, Marty Stuart and Dean Dillon at the Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony
Hank Williams Jr, Marty Stuart and Dean Dillon are welcomed into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021.