SONG: I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
ARTIST: Hank Williams
Listen to it here:
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry was written and recorded by Hank Williams in 1949. The song was put to tape on August 30th of that year and Williams was backed by the Pleasant Valley Boys. The song was one of Williams’ biggest hits, earning praise from the likes of KD Lang (“…is one of the most classic American songs ever written, truly. Beautiful song.”) and Bob Dylan (“Even at a young age, I identified with him. I didn’t have to experience anything that Hank did to know what he was singing about.”)
Hiram “Hank” Williams was born September 17, 1923 in Mount Olive, Alabama. He is widely considered the king of country music and a significant influence in American song writing. When Williams was young, his family moved to Georgiana where he met a Black man named Rufus Payne who taught him how to play guitar and accepted food or money as payment. Williams eventually moved to Montgomery where his career began in earnest when he was hired by a local radio station to perform and host a 15 minute segment. During the WWII years Williams’ demons started to affect his work, culminating with his termination from the radio station. Williams married his long time manager and eventually signed a contract with MGM Records. A year after the signing Hank recorded and released a cover of Lovesick Blues which launched him into the mainstream and gained him entry to the Grand Ole Opry. Although he could not read or write music, he was able to write and churn out such hits as “Your Cheatin’ Heart”, “Hey, Good Lookin'” and our song today, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”.
Unfortunately Williams adopted the rock & roll lifestyle of over indulgence in alcohol and prescription drugs due to a chronic back problem (spina bifida) , but his addictions led to his divorce from Sheppard and his dismissal from the Grand Ole Opry. On New Years Day 1953, Williams’ heart finally gave out and he died at age 29.
In the 1950s Williams made several religious recordings under the pen name “Luke the Drifter”, which he adopted so that the unusual recordings would not tarnish his name with the public.
His son Hank Williams Jr and grandson Hank Williams III are also country musicians.
I really really wanted to like this song. I wanted to feel moved and inspired by this song. But I think it’s just too country for me. I’m not saying it’s a bad song or played terribly or is drivel, and I understand the historical and cultural significance of it and how Hank is this mythic music man, but I just don’t love it. I do really like the slide guitar playing, and Hank’s voice isn’t so twangy that it’s irritating. I also like how it reminds me of the Roots and Americana music that our folks are into, which hits me in the nostalgia bone. But I will say, I’m looking forward to leaving the 1940s behind and heading into the 1950s where we get more rock and soul!
Here we are, folks. We’ve reached the end of year 2020, and this blog post is our last song of the 1940s. I know that Hank Williams is very important in the history of 20th century music, but the twangy, warbly sound is just not my thing. Things I do like though are the steel guitar and how prominent it is in this song, and the balance between all the instruments and the voice. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry is incredibly sad and maybe it connects with a lot of people because Hank Williams had a crummy life, and his singing comes from a very honest place and this does give this song a little more depth than the melody alone conveys. Still, not my thing. Goodbye 2020, hello 2021, goodbye 40s, hello 50s!
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song
The reverend Al Green!
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Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist: