Music

I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive

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Hank Williams, the legendary honky-tonk singer and songwriter, died on this day in 1953 in the backseat of a Cadillac, en route to a performance in Canton, Ohio. Born in Mount Olive, Alabama on September 17, 1923, Williams shaped the American musical landscape with his haunting, high lonesome voice and vivid lyrical depictions of love, loss, sin, and salvation. In Nick Tosches' memorable words, "Hank's music—Hank himself, really—was a mixture of whiskey, lamb's blood, and grave dirt."

The author of numerous hits, including classics such as "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Move It On Over," and "Cold, Cold Heart," Williams had a vast influence over singers as different as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, and Bob Dylan. No history of American popular culture should be considered complete unless it recognizes his importance as both a performer and a songwriter.

For more on Williams' legacy and the tangled roots of country music, including the connections between Hank and the blackface minstrel singer Emmett Miller, check out my 2002 article "Hidden Country." And click here to find out why the Grand Ole Opry should reinstate Hank.

NEXT: Conan the Cruel?

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  1. All those who don’t give a shit, say I.

    1. Being far-removed related to Hank, I kinda care about this. He’s gotten a version of the Pete Rose treatment, in a vague way, and it’s undeserved.

    2. That’s “aye,” not “I” dummy.

      1. Brubaker,electronic voting aka I-voting. Now, guess what I think you should do with your baseball bat?

        1. Brubaker,can’t type standing up?

  2. First, as between Williams and the Grand Ole Opry, who the hell cares if the Country Music equivalent of the Lawrence Welk Show “reinstates” Hank, Sr. or not?

    Second, as influential as he obviously was, I might actually listen to his music more often if he hadn’t included that, to put it mildly, regrettable yodeling.

    Third, linking the unsuspecting reader to a Hank Williams III video is mightly damned close to a Rickroll, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

    1. First, as between Williams and the Grand Ole Opry, who the hell cares if the Country Music equivalent of the Lawrence Welk Show “reinstates” Hank, Sr. or not?

      So true. The Grand Ole Opry’s reputation as the be all and end all in Country Music is vastly overstated.

      The Delmore Brothers were also booted from the Grand Ole Opry and it took them forever to get into the Country Music Hall of fame – never mind that they taught Merle Travis how to read music and that country music would be much different had they never recorded. All that matters is that the folks at the Grand Ole Opry would prefer to ignore them.

      Other notable acts who only performed once at the Grand Ole Opry:

      Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys (committed the sin of demanding to have their drummer play on stage with them)
      The Maddox Brothers and Rose (wouldn’t introduce their songs and engage in between-song patter)
      Wanda Jackson (she wore a strapless dress, exposing her shoulders. Oh, the horror!)

      Yo, fuck the Grand Ole Opry.

      1. When I was a kid I always read “Grand Ole Opry” as Grand Ol? Opry.

        Gummint should make them change it to Grand Ol Opry.

  3. linking the unsuspecting reader to a Hank Williams III video is mightly damned close to a Rickroll, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

    Bah!

  4. The Real Hank Williams was totally fucking awesome.

  5. Not to take away from the great Hank Williams, but the also-great Townes Van Zandt died 13 years ago on this day.

  6. Real legends like Hank Williams and Pete Rose don’t need no stinkin’ hall of fame to enshrine their greatness — the halls are diminished by excluding them.

  7. Thanks for reminding me about old Hank. He is/was a bad ass.

  8. ‘Hank Williams . . . died on this day in 1953 in the backseat of a Cadillac’

    That may be so, but statistics prove that an American is 10,000 times more likely to *begin* his life in the back seat of a car than to end it there.

    1. That’s inconceivable…

  9. Thanks for the reminder of Hank’s sad death. I hear the Opry didn’t like Patsy Cline either.

  10. It will be great to watch Bob Dylan,i have bought tickets from TicketFront.com looking forward to it.

  11. Thanks for such a beautifully composed, informative article.I think your designing work to this is really great .I really appreciate your work to this site.So thanks for it. harris county inmate search

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