A LIFETIME OF FRIENDS
Updated: Feb 27, 2020
Harlan Howard was a great friend to many. He loved hanging round songwriters but also liked singers and bartenders - anyone who would sit and chat while he downed a few vodkas mixed with kahlua and milk and later fruit juices. Harlan was painfully shy. Drinks gave him courage. Bars provided a platform to sit and watch, perhaps listen. Harlan was the consummate songwriter, always on the hunt for a unique title, an unusual story line, the perfect rhyme.
The photo above was taken at a Harlan Howard Birthday Bash in the mid 90’s. Nanci Griffith was a dear friend of Harlan’s when I met him. Harlan was introduced to Nanci’s music by way of her producer, Jim Rooney. Harlan was intrigued to meet her and invited her to lunch at Maude’s Courtyard. He was impressed when she showed up alone – no entourage. Their mutual friendship was sealed that very day.
Nanci recorded several songs of Harlan’s including, “Never Mind” and “Streets of Baltimore,” as well as a few they co-wrote together, “Say It Isn’t So,” and “Maybe Tomorrow.” Harlan was also an accomplished song-plugger. He loved pitching songs which is at odds with his introverted nature. But friendship trumped the music business in Harlan’s later years. He was grateful to still be relevant, but friendships were paramount to him. Nanci, Roger and Waylon were all exceptional songwriters. They didn’t need
Harlan’s songs or anyone else’s for that matter, but they chose to seek out songs by Harlan that fit their projects. I’m thankful that Harlan left the body of work that he did. It’s an amazing legacy. Just as important to me as his treasure chest of songs is his lasting legacy of friendships. When you marry someone you take on their friends. I hit the jackpot when I inherited Harlan’s friends!
Melanie Smith-Howard 2.26.20