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Born:September 17, 1923Alabama...(Show more)Died:January 1, 1953 (aged 29)West Virginia...(Show more)Awards and also Honors:Pulitzer PrizeGrammy AwardGrammy compensation (1989)Rock and also Roll room of Fame and also Museum (1987)...(Show more)Notable family Members:son Hank Williams, Jr....(Show more)

Hank Williams, byname that Hiram Williams, additionally called the Hillbilly Shakespeare, (born September 17, 1923, Georgiana, Alabama, U.S.—died January 1, 1953, Oak Hill, West Virginia), American singer, songwriter, and also guitarist who in the 1950s arguably came to be country music’s very first superstar. An extremely talented songwriter and an impassioned vocalist, he additionally experienced great crossover success in the famous music market. His iconic condition was enhanced by his death at period 29 and by his reputation for hard living and heart-on-the-sleeve vulnerability.

As a boy, Williams was the musical protégé that Rufus Payne, an african American street performer who went through the name Tee-Tot and also busked ~ above the highways of Georgiana and Greenville, Alabama. Most likely taught his first chords by Payne, Williams started playing the guitar at period 8. That made his radio debut at period 13; developed his first band, Hank Williams and his Drifting Cowboys, at period 14; and also early on began wearing the cowboy hats and also western apparel that later were so associated with him. During people War II Williams commuted between Mobile, where he functioned in a shipyard, and also Montgomery, whereby he pursued a musical career. At this phase Williams began abusing alcohol, a difficulty that haunted him the rest of his life but that came around partly as a result of his attempts to self-medicate agonizing back pain led to by a congenital spinal disorder. Later he would dull his physics pain v morphine, but alcohol stayed his painkiller of selection when that sought to relax the heartache the his tumultuous relationship with Audrey Sheppard, who he married in 1942 (they divorced in 1952).

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In 1946 Williams landed a songwriting contract v Acuff-Rose Publications and also began composing material for singer Molly O’Day. Later that year he obtained his very first recording contract, with Sterling Records; however, it to be on the start-up label MGM that he had actually his first hit, “Move the on Over” in 1947. Shortly thereafter he ended up being a continual on the newly produced Louisiana Hayride radio regimen based in Shreveport, Louisiana. His breakthrough minute came in 1949 v the relax of “Lovesick Blues,” an old present tune the Williams parlayed into a chart-topping hit, an invitation to join the cool Ole Opry in Nashville, and international fame. More than half of the 66 recordings he would make under his own name (he also released a string of religious-themed recordings under the name Luke the Drifter) were optimal Ten country and western hits, numerous of them reaching number one, including “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Hey, an excellent Lookin’,” “Jambalaya (On the Bayou),” and also “I’ll Never obtain Out the This people Alive.” His especially “Lost Highway” peaked at number 12.

Williams, who wrote many of his song himself, crafted direct, emotionally moral lyrics that had actually a poetic simplicity that spoke not only to pan of country and also western music however to a much wider audience, as shown by the popular music hit crooner Tony Bennett had with his sheathe of “Cold, Cold Heart” in 1951. Williams’s music itself to be not especially groundbreaking, though he to be a deft synthesizer that blues, honky-tonk country, western swing, and also other genres. However, his plaintive, bluesy phrasing was unique and became a touchstone of nation music. Nation music chronicler Bill Malone composed that Williams “sang v the high quality that has characterized every good hillbilly singer: utter sincerity.” regardless of Williams’s many well-known teen songs, that should likewise be remembered that he was qualified of writing and singing with great joy and also humour, together on, because that example, “Howlin’ at the Moon.”


The last years of his life to be suffused in enhancing sadness and substance abuse. He died of a heart strike in a drug- and alcohol-induced stupor in the backseat that a car, probably in West Virginia, when being pushed from Knoxville, Tennessee, to a concert in Canton, Ohio. Red Foley, Roy Acuff, and Ernest Tubb, amongst others, sang Williams’s gospel-influenced “I witnessed the Light” in ~ his funeral, which was attended by thousands. His son, Hank Williams, Jr., a successful country performer in his own right (like Williams’s grandson, Hank Williams III), sang Williams’s songs in the movie biography Your Cheatin’ Heart (1964). In 2010 the Pulitzer Prize plank awarded Williams a distinct citation because that “his craftsmanship as a songwriter that expressed universal feelings with emotional simplicity and also played a pivotal duty in transforming country music right into a significant musical and cultural force in American life.”