Hank Williams would have been 100 years old

I Can’t Help It

Hank Williams would have been 100 years old on September 17, 2023. He died before I was born.

When I was a tween (though the term didn’t exist then), I would listen to WWVA in Wheeling, WV, a clear channel station playing country music, late at night. Hank Williams appeared often enough that I had forgotten that he was deceased.

The first listing in the book On This Day In Music History by Jay Warner,  2004 iteration, is for January 1, 1953. “Legendary country singer Hank Williams had a career forty-two hit singles, including eleven #1s such as ‘Lovesick Blues,’ Hey Good Lookin’,’Cold, Cold Heart,’ and ‘Jambalaya.'” I LOVED Hey Good Lookin’ in particular.

“The hard-drinking Mount Olive, Alabama youth (he started drinking at age eleven) started out as a songwriter in Nashville and had his first hit with ‘Move It on Over‘ in 1947. “

I swear I saw the 2015 movie I Saw The Light, starring Tom Hiddleston as Loki, I mean Hank.  As I recall, it was rather bland, boring, and unfocused, though I apparently didn’t write about it. It got terrible reviews, 19% positive with critics and 37% with the audience. But I did learn that he wrote the title song, which I had assumed was an anonymous old tune.

“Troubled by back problems most of his life, pain killers, and booze became his crutch. He died of a heart attack in the rear seat of a Cadillac en route to a concert in Ohio today. He was only twenty-nine.”

I own his 40 Greatest Hits on two CDs from 1988, likely from a 1978 set of LPs.

He’s the composer.

Under soundtracks, the IMDb page has 242 references to Hank Williams as the composer and occasional performer, from Apache Country (1952) to Asteroid City (2023).  It includes I Can’t Help It by Ricky Nelson, which he performed on Ozzie and Harriet in 1959.

Hank is covered a lot. Long Gone Lonesome Blues by Sheryl Crow appears on a 2001 tribute album, Timeless. There are other tribute albums as well. The one I have is The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams from 2011.

The Residents recorded Kaw-Liga in 1986.  Jerry Lee Lewis took on I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive in 1995. My very favorite is Norah Jones singing Cold, Cold Heart, which appears on her debut album, Come Away With Me, which I bought in 2002.

There are three Hank Williams 100th Birthday Tribute Shows: in Leicester, England, yesterday, in Seattle today, and in Chicago tomorrow.

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