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Hank Williams Jr. on life struggles and redemption

In a conversation with CBS News' Jan Crawford, the country legend shares candidly about how he turned his life around after attempting suicide
Hank Williams Jr. talks near-death encounters 02:06

Hank Williams Jr. has spent half a century writing and recording hit songs about rowdy friends, family traditions, sipping whiskey and country boys.

Williams started performing when he was only eight, and released his first album as a teenager. He sold more than 7 million records and won Entertainer of the Year and a Grammy. Now at 66, the country legend is out with a new album, "It's About Time."

Fans may know him as a rowdy outlaw, the long-time voice of Monday Night Football, or as country music royalty -- he is the son of one of the most influential figures in American music and the godson of Johnny and June Carter Cash.

He is one complicated man, but when you hear him talk about how he grew up and what he went through, it starts to make sense why he feels free to do and say whatever he wants, reports CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford.

That's because you may not about his anguish, the loss and all the second chances.

He considers his farm in South Alabama home, where he hunts and fishes and his parents are buried nearby.

Hank Senior died from alcohol and pills at 29 - a father Williams never knew.

Hank Junior was three. His mother molded him into his father's image.

He gave fans what they wanted -- an imitation of his dad until his early 20's - until the pressure got too much.

"For a long time, it didn't matter. But boy, you start being... then it starts working on you," Williams said.

He said when it got "real bad," he attempted to take his life.

The doctor who treated him was blunt.

"He said, 'Let me just lay it out there for you. You've been taught from the time you can possibly remember to look like, act like, be like, everything exactly like your legendary father,'" Williams recalled. "He said, 'They've done a damn good job.' He said, 'And you're going to beat him because he died at 29. You're going to die at 26.'"

From that day on, Williams said "all that went out the window."

But just as he charted his own path came the fall - literally. On a hunting trip, he plunged more than 500 feet off a mountain. The injuries and multiple operations left scars to his face and head.

"You've got to learn to see, hear, smell and talk again," Williams said. "I had half of a face."

Because of his more than once near-death encounters, doctors told him he shouldn't be alive. But because of that, Williams lives life on his own terms. He not only survived, but also found freedom to say and be himself.

His fans felt he spoke for them, and the hits and awards rolled in.

But his outspokenness has also brought controversy, including a 2011 interview when he made a comment about a golf round between President Obama and then-House Speaker John Boehner.

"That'd be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu," Williams said on "Fox and Friends."

ESPN and Monday Night Football cut ties with him, and to that, William was unrepentant and makes no apologies still today.

"Go check it out. Don't listen to me. Go check out what their ratings went to," William said. "Let me tell you something. I ain't real crazy about either one ladies and gentlemen."

Today he is at peace with where he came from.

"You know, that song - what does it say? 'Don't Call Me an Icon. I don't care about the Hall of Fame. I'm going to live my life in my country boy kind of way.' Oh, they're real baby. Them songs are real," Williams said.

Williams has become a legend of his own by being his own man. That independence, his willingness to basically give the finger to authority are some qualities his fans love.

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