There is no name in country music more legendary than Hank Williams. A singer/songwriter armed with a distinctly plucky tenor and a chest heavy with heartsick songs, Williams became a trailblazing figure in contemporary country music. He was a star that burned brighter than most, if only for a short while.
Here are five striking live moments in honor of Hank Williams, who passed away 70 years ago today (Jan. 1) at the age of 29, just as midnight welcomed a new year.
Williams made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry in 1949. Recorded in the video below, the then-25-year-old performed his first No.1 hit, “Lovesick Blues.” The night was not only a memorable one for the singer, it was an unprecedented one for the legendary Opry House. That night, Williams captivated the audience so much so they called him out for six encores.
“Cold Cold Heart”
Introduced by fellow country star Roy Acuff, Williams takes the stage for a performance of the tender hit, “Cold Cold Heart.” He opens the pleading tune with a charming address to the audience, telling them the success of the song has afforded them a few beans and biscuits.
“Hey Good Lookin'”
Featuring a glimpse of a young June Carter, Williams’ performance of “Hey Good Lookin'” is a fun, foot-tapping good time. Expressive eyebrows with a sly smile here and there showcase the singer’s ability to do more than simply perform a song.
“I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)”
Williams’ performance of “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)” alongside Anita Carter is a sweetly strummed rendition of the loved-up country classic. The two sell the performance, stealing shy glances at each other and sharing soft smiles mid-verse.
“I Saw the Light”
In a choral rendition of Williams’ famed “I Saw the Light,” the singer still shines against a dozen voices. His music note-pocked getup doesn’t hurt, but it’s his sure-sung solo that seals the deal.
Photo: Album Cover I’m Gonna Sing