Crazy Heart Author Not The Weary Kind With Novel In Spotlight

With the movie “Crazy Heart” winning Academy Awards for best actor and best original song, Rhode Island author Thomas Cobb says the seeds of his book were planted in his own days as a musician in a notoriously bad rock n’ roll band and a less-than-professional music journalist. Cobb’s novel “Crazy Heart” was first published in 1987. The soft-spoken professor never became weary as the book dropped in and out of favor to become a movie.

That’s actor Jeff Bridges doing his own singing in his role as fading country western star Bad Blake — the hero of the movie “Crazy Heart.”

Far from the glare of Hollywood, in a quiet office at Rhode Island College, English professor Thomas Cobb says from the moment he got the first line for his novel “Crazy Heart,” Bad Blake was trouble.

Whether it’s with booze or with women or with anger issues, he just keeps screwing himself up.

Cobb says something irresistibly hopeful kept coming through as the character Bad Blake unfolded.

He’s a good, very competent man who can’t stay out of his own way and keeps sabotaging himself at every step…but he keeps picking himself up and he keeps trying again.

Don’t put the story strictly into country music territory.

I don’t think this is really a novel about a country western singer. I think it’s a novel about all of us who make mistakes and screw things up and want a second chance.

The background for the novel began when Cobb was in his 30s and applied his writing skills to journalism.

It was a little magazine out of Tucson, Arizona called Newsreel and I became the country and western writer because I was the only one who was willing to listen to country and western music.

He found the title for his future novel in the song Crazy Heart by Hank Williams, Senior. The song didn’t make it into the movie. Cobb says being a music journalist had plusses and minuses. I didn’t get paid, no, but I got to spend lots of nights in bars listening to music.

In the film Crazy Heart, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Jean, a music journalist who pretty quickly sleeps with the subject of her interview — Bad Blake.

After one of the Q&As in Los Angeles with the cast, somebody asked Maggie, “Why do you supposed Jean is such a bad journalist?”
“Well, I think it’s because I was such a bad journalist.” I wasn’t totally unprofessional.. .but I wasn’t writing for the main paper and I didn’t have to mind my Ps and Qs. I was going to these bars and shows and I was drinking and…the other things you do in bars.

When Cobb moved to Texas, he gave the stage a try.

(Did you play in a band?) I did. A band called Moist and the Towelettes. (Where was that band?) That was in Houston. We were all graduate students at the University of Houston creative writing program. Were written up in Texas Monthly as playing the worst music in Houston, if not the universe.

Even though Moist and the Towelettes never made it big, Cobb wrote a short story in Houston that evolved into his novel Crazy Heart, It was published in 1987. Earlier attempts at making a movie from the book never worked out.

Finally the combination clicked. Just like in the movie’s theme song, The Weary Kind, by Ryan Bingham, sometimes you just have to get up and try and over and over again… and therein lies the strength of a crazy heart.

Rhonda Miller. Providence, Rhode Island.


Broadcast history:

AARP Prime Time Radio, March 16, 2010


WXIN , March 6, 2010


Posted on Public Radio Exchange, Feb. 25, 2010


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