Hank Williams

By: Mark Kingwell
September 17, 2015


The too-short, pill-filled, booze-addled life of American singer-songwriter HIRAM ‘HANK’ WILLIAMS SR. (1923–53) excites a mixture of awe and sadness that few other denizens of the music-making machine can arouse. So talented! — thirty-five Billboard C&W Top Ten singles, five of them posthumous, eleven scaling the heights to number one. So charismatic! — the lean and besuited paragon of old-timey country, dazzling in long silk fringes, spangles, and appliquéd scatters of the clefs and notes he could not himself read. And so self-destructive! — the constant drinking and prescription drugs, prompted in part by back pain he suffered from spina bifida. Schooled by Roy Acuff, Jimmie “The Singing Brakeman” Rodgers, and street legend Rufus “Tee-Tot” Payne, Williams would in turn bestow his gifts of influence on every Nashville performer since. Dismissed from the Grand Ole Opry for bouts of boozy bad behaviour, dead at twenty-nine from heart failure, he is the stuff of legend, somehow too much, and yet tragically also too little, for this mundane realm. He is, instead, the twangy-voiced angel of our constant sorrow.

“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” (1949)

“Cold Cold Heart” (Live, 1952)


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Yuji Naka, Edgar Ulmer, William Carlos Williams, Ken Kesey, Doug E. Fresh.

READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the New God (1914-23) and Postmodernist (1924-33) Generations.