Hank Williams is the father of contemporary country music. He was a superstar by the age of 25; he was dead at the age of 29. In those four short years, Hank wrote and recorded a body of work that established the rules for all the country performers who followed him and, in the process, set the standard for most popular music.
"Move It on Over," Williams' first single for MGM, was an immediate hit in early 1947, climbing into the country Top Five. Two other singles followed in 1948, but "Lovesick Blues" was the song that made him a star. Upon its spring release in 1949, it was a smash hit, staying at number one for 16 weeks and crossing over into the pop Top 25. Williams had seven other hits in 1949 and another string of hits followed in 1950; that same year, Hank recorded a series of spiritual records as Luke the Drifter. Williams racked up more hits in 1951, beginning with the number one "Cold, Cold Heart." Tony Bennett had hit with "Cold, Cold Heart" that year, opening the doors for mainstream artists to cover Williams.
Though his career was soaring, Williams' personal life was spinning out of control. He had descended into drug and alcohol addiction, and in January 1952, his wife Audrey left him. Despite this, the hits kept coming, with no less than six Top Ten singles in 1952. Soon, his reckless behavior caught up with him, as he started missing concerts or playing drunk, losing friends and bandmembers in the process. On his way to a concert in Canton, OH, on January 1, 1953, Hank died in the backseat of his new Cadillac, the victim of a drug and alcohol overdose. "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive," the last single he released in his lifetime, reached number one immediately after his death. Decades later, Hank Williams remained a towering figure in contemporary music. His songs are classics, his recordings timeless, and his life story is legendary. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine