The family of Country Music Hall of Fame member and award-winning singer/songwriter Hank Cochran has launched The Pen Fund in his honor. In conjunction with the Nashville-based non-profit organization, The Nikki Mitchell Foundation, Hank's widow Suzi Cochran and daughter Booth Calder hope The Pen Fund will aid songwriters with pancreatic cancer, support awareness and further breakthroughs in research and development for the early detection and treatment of the disease.
"Hank loved songwriting, and he loved other songwriters," recalls his daughter Booth, Co-Founder of The Pen Fund. "He passed that love on to me, and that gave me an incredible drive to help others. Writers give up so much, and we believe that they deserve help, especially when facing a life-changing illness such as this."
During his long and prolific songwriting career, Hank Cochran penned thousands of songs and earned over 40 B.M.I. awards in both the Pop & Country categories. In 1975, he was the sole writer to be inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. In the '60s, he had five songs in Billboard's Top 10. In 2003, three of his compositions ("I Fall To Pieces," "The Chair," "Make The World Go Away") were included in CMT's "100 Greatest Songs of Country Music" list. In 2007, Hank was honored as the first songwriter invited to perform in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Poets And Prophets songwriter series. In 2012, acclaimed singer/songwriter Jamey Johnson released Livin' For A Song: A Tribute To Hank Cochran (Mercury Nashville).
Country star Merle Haggard called Cochran "the Hemingway of Country music," and award-winning songwriter/producer Buddy Cannon named him "the cornerstone of Country music." Hank remains a beloved songwriter to walk the streets of Music Row. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July 2008, following the removal of several cancerous tumors from his pancreas and lymph nodes. He passed away on July 15, 2010 at the age of 74.
"The statistics for the disease are awful," Calder states. "There will be an estimated 37,000– 48,000 people diagnosed this year. Although, those numbers are smaller than most cancers, the percentage of people who die in the first five years following diagnosis is 94 percent, the highest of any cancer."
Currently, there is no early detection method in place for Pancreatic Cancer. "That's one of the goals of The Pen Fund," adds Suzi Cochran. "Early detection is critical to survival, but research dollars are at a premium. We hope to help in that area, while also making a positive impact on individual songwriters who are suffering through the disease. Hank's songs will always be remembered," Suzi adds. "And we hope his passion for the songwriting community lives on through The Pen Fund."
Suzi and Booth joined forces with The Nikki Mitchell Foundation because of the close-knit environment shared by its staff and supporters. "Nikki was Waylon Jennings' assistant for 21 years and a longtime friend to us all," Suzi recalls. "And it's just a great organization." Country superstars Jamey Johnson, Keith Urban, Shooter Jennings and Jessie Colter are just a few of the supporters of NMF, which recently teamed with another newly-formed organization, The Autumn Leaves Project. Launched by Grammy-nominated producer/songwriter/musician Butch Walker, their combined efforts will put the need for disease-specific research on the map, expand efforts for an early detection methodology and ultimately find a cure for the disease.
To donate, visit thepenfund.org.