3 Eternal Country Classics by Hank Williams

Not only is he the father of a great musical lineage, but Hank Williams, in a way, is the father of modern country music. Born on September 17, 1923, in Butler County, Alabama, Williams didn’t live a long life, passing away on New Year’s Day in 1953 at the age of just 29 years old. At the time, he was on tour trying to make gigs in various cities while being driven around by a stranger as he writhed from sickness in the back seat. What a way to go.

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But throughout the course of his life, Williams made a giant impact on music, amassing 55 songs that made the Billboard country charts and a dozen that hit No. 1. Here below, we wanted to dive into three songs from the country and western singer. A trio of tunes that have lived on way past Williams and will continue to way past any of us.

[RELATED: 3 Movies Every Hank Williams Fan Should See]

“Hey Good Lookin'” (1951)

Released as a single in 1951, this song was originally written by Williams for his friend and country singer Jimmy Dickens. Williams was trying to help his pal get a country hit and wrote this tune in about 20 minutes while on a plane. But upon realizing just how good the song was, Williams decided to keep it for himself and he cut the track in a Nashville studio about a week after writing it. Using food-centered double entendres, Williams looks to court the song’s subject with food puns, offering some romantic time and then a monogamous relationship. On the twangy track, he sings,

Say hey, good lookin’ – what ya got cookin’?
How’s about cooking somethin’ up with me?
Hey, sweet baby – don’t you think maybe
We can find us a brand new recipe?

I got a hot rod Ford, and a two dollar bill
And I know a spot right over the hill
There’s soda pop and the dancing’s free
So if you wanna have fun, come along with me

“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” (1949)

One of Williams’ most famous songs, this is one of the saddest and most mournful tunes from the artist’s catalog. While some historians have said Williams didn’t actually pen this track and instead bought it from Kentucky songwriter Paul Gilley, the prevailing thought is this is something Williams did in fact create. But no matter who wrote the lyrics, the song’s emotive qualities remain the same. Williams sings on the single about depression and isolation, crooning,

Hear that lonesome whippoorwill
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
I’m so lonesome, I could cry

I’ve never seen a night so long
And time goes crawling by
The moon just went behind the clouds
To hide its face and cry

Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves begin to die?
Like me, he’s lost the will to live
I’m so lonesome, I could cry

“I Saw the Light” (1948)

A jaunty song about the divine, this song was inspired by a drive. Coming home from a show in Fort Deposit, Alabama, Williams was in the back seat of his mother’s car, passed out and drunk. But as they got closer to their destination, his mother said to Williams, “I just saw the light,” meaning they were approaching the city of Montgomery, Alabama. Williams then held onto that phrase and wrote the song, which has since become a gospel standard in country music. On the song, Williams sings,

I wandered so aimless, life filled with sin
I wouldn’t let my dear savior in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord, I saw the light

I saw the light, I saw the light
No more darkness, no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord, I saw the light

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Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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