100 Greatest Singers

27

Hank Williams

Michael Ochs Archive/Getty

Born September 17th, 1923 (died January 1st, 1953)
Key Tracks "Lovesick Blues," "Cold, Cold Heart," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"
Influenced George Jones, Buddy Holly, Dwight Yoakam, Willie Nelson

"At first listen, Hank may not sound like a real good singer," says Merle Haggard, "but he had a unique method of sincerity. I never heard anything Hank sang that I didn't believe." More than any other voice, the warm, nasally moan of Hank Williams — with its upbeat hiccup and downcast cry — defines country. His most famous songs, from "Hey, Good Lookin'" to "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," set the template for all subsequent country music — and not just a little rock and soul. "He sounds like his heart is breaking," says Rhett Miller of the Old 97's. "It's so perfect, so unfiltered, and he really embraced his hillbilly. He pronounced 'can't' like 'cain't' and 'still' like 'steel.' You don't hear that kind of regionalism anymore. We've lost that."

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