Giving him his fifth number one placing in the Billboard Country Chart, the legendary Hank Williams sat in top spot today in 1951 with his self-penned song, “Cold, Cold Heart”.
Although coming nowhere near to toppling “How High The Moon” by Les Paul and Mary Ford from its perch, Hank’s rendition of “Cold, Cold Heart” still made its way to number 27 on the pop chart.
Reluctantly covered by Italian/American crooner Tony Bennett soon after (at the insistence of famed producer Mitch Miller), the plaintive ode would chart just weeks later, climbing steadily before settling at number one for six weeks by November 1951.
In doing so, it brought respectability to “cowboy music” on both a national and international level, opening the door for numerous crossovers – not least of which saw other Hank songs handed to “pop” artists such as Jo Stafford, who reached number 11 in the UK with “Jambalaya” in 1952.
By then though Hank was locked into a downward cycle that would end in his death. Hospitalised due to the effects of alcoholism and a worsening addiction to painkillers, he returned to his unremitting live schedule – although becoming increasingly unreliable due to his condition.
Playing the Grand Old Opry for the final time in July 1952 (he was sacked soon after), Hank passed away in the final hours of December 1952, aged just 29. Symbolic of the slackening boundaries between musicial genres, by the end of the decade the same Ryman Auditorium stage would play host to Tony Bennett, singing “Cold, Cold Heart”.
And over half a century later, he’s still performing it – while a host of other performers including Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Norah Jones have also covered the song.
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And here’s some footage of Hank Williams in action: