Hank Williams (Everett Collection)
Hank Williams was a member of that tragic club of musicians who died far too young – he was just 29 years old on New Year's Day, 1953, when he passed away. But in the few years he had on earth, he became one of the legends of country music with his simple but powerful songs.
Not every song Hank Williams wrote was a heartbreaking tale of loss… but most of his greatest hits were. Among them was one of the most popular of his songs, "Your Cheatin' Heart." Written about his first wife – with the assistance of his second wife – it's perhaps the greatest of all the (many, many) country songs about infidelity.
"Long Gone Lonesome Blues," another song about an unfaithful lover, had Williams yodeling his sorrow. His famous son covered this song – though the father's version charted higher (No. 1, to Jr.'s No. 5).
"Cold, Cold Heart" was one of Williams's most successful songs, No. 1 on the country charts and well known to pop music fans as well, thanks to Tony Bennett's famous cover. Lots of other artists have made it their own, too – Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Nat King Cole, Bill Haley, Freddy Fender and more.
And then there's the eerie one. "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" wasn't meant to be a mournful song – it was a funny song with a silly title. But when Williams died suddenly and mysteriously, while the song was hot on the charts, it seemed to take on weight and deep meaning. Williams's cowriter, Fred Rose, died a year later, making the song that much more poignant.
Written by Linnea Crowther