There are important Country Music artists, then there's Hank Williams.
Hiram "Hank" Williams (September 17, 1923 - January 1, 1953) was an American musician who left an impact on the country music scene that few others before or since have ever made even before his signing to MGM Records in 1946, he was heralded as a talent worth watching with his unique style of "direct, emotional lyrics" and strong honky-tonk influences. Some of his best-known songs are "Lovesick Blues", "Cold, Cold Heart", "Hey, Good Lookin'", "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)", "Kaw-Liga" and "Your Cheatin' Heart." His band was known as the Drifting Cowboys.
Williams had spina bifida occulta, a congenital condition in which his spinal column was not completely closed, but the splits in the vertebrae were not large enough to expose his spinal cord. Most people with that condition show no symptoms. Unfortunately, that was not the case for Williams; he suffered from severe back pain throughout his life. Making matters even worse, his back was further damaged by two serious falls, one as a teenager and the other in late 1951; not even spinal fusion surgery shortly after the second fall helped his situation.
Not surprisingly, he turned to self-medication. Even before his career went into overdrive he struggled with alcoholism. This drinking problem was combined with a morphine addiction that caused his personal life to deteriorate sharply at the turn of The '50s. Audrey divorced Williams (of course, not long after the birth of his son, Hank Williams Jr., who would later become a well-known singer in his own right, and fathered Hank Williams III, another notable singer and musician noted for his strong resemblance to his grandfather). His backing band split up, producer Fred Rose stopped supporting him, and he got fired from the Grand Ole Opry, only driving him further and further into alcoholism and other drug abuse. At the end, on January 1, 1953, Hank Williams was found dead while the car he was riding in was stopped in Oak Hill, West Virginia on his way to a concert in Canton, Ohio. His death, less than three months after his 29th birthday, was determined to be from heart failure. Incidentally, the last song he ever wrote was titled "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive."
Tom Hiddleston portrayed Williams in the 2016 biopic I Saw the Light. The production received the rights to Williams' entire musical library, and Hiddleston did his own singing in the part.
Hank Williams provides examples of:
- Accentuate the Negative: Williams' music shows a recurring theme of breakups, lovesickness, loneliness, neglect, being refused,...
- Alter-Ego Acting: Luke the Drifter, his persona for his spoken-word pieces, who he would introduce as his friend or his half-brother during performances.
- Badass Boast: "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)".
- Biopic: Five films were made of his life: Your Cheatin' Heart (1964), Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave (1980), Hank Williams First Nation (2004), The Last Ride (2011), and I Saw The Light (2015). There was also a script for an unproduced film, titled Eight Scenes From the Life of Hank Williams.
- Break Up Song: "Your Cheatin' Heart", "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used To Do)?", "My Love For You (Has Turned To Hate)".
- Country Music: Along with Johnny Cash the most iconic and influential artist in the genre.
- Cradle of Loneliness: "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", "May You Never Be Alone", "Alone and Forsaken".
- Drowning My Sorrows: "There's A Tear In My Beer".
- Grief Song: "Angel Of Death".
- Have a Gay Old Time:Pick guitar, fill fruit jar, and be gay-o,Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou!
- Jukebox Musical: Hank Williams: Lost Highway.
- One-Man Song: "Ramblin' Man", "My Son Calls Another Man Daddy".
- Questioning Title?: "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used To Do)?"
- The Savage Indian: "Kaw-Liga" musically evokes this trope with its pounding drums and whoops, but it's actually a whimsical tale of a wooden Indian statue at an antique shop in love with an Indian Maiden statue. Williams himself had some Cherokee and Creek ancestry.
- Something Blues: "Lovesick Blues", "Moanin' the Blues", "Honky Tonk Blues", "Weary Blues From Waiting".
- Wanderlust Song: "Rambling Man".
In popular culture
- Cars: My Heart Would Know can faintly be heard in the background when Radiatior Springs is shown for the first time.
- The Shawshank Redemption: After returning from his solitary confinement stay due to the loudspeaker incident, Andy is playfully teased by Heywood, who says he would have preferred if he played "something good", like Hank Williams, to which he apologizes by saying they stopped him before he could take requests. Then, many years later, after having substantially improved the library, Andy finally manages to fulfill Heywood's request by amassing a substantial collection of Hank Williams' records.
- The Residents scored their only underground dance hit in 1986 with "Kaw Liga", a cover of Hank Williams to the bassline of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean.
- His songs made up the bulk of the soundtrack for The Last Picture Show.
- His final song, "I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive" was the theme to HBO's The Life & Times of Tim