I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry

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"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"
Single by Hank Williams
A-side "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It"[1]
Released November 8, 1949
Recorded August 30, 1949, Herzog Studio, Cincinnati
Genre Country
Length 2:48
Label MGM Records
Writer(s) Hank Williams
Hank Williams singles chronology
"You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)" (1949) "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" (1949) "I Just Don't Like This Kind of Living" (1950)

"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" is a song written and recorded by American country music singer-songwriter Hank Williams in 1949. Williams wrote the song originally intending that the words be spoken, rather than sung,[2] as he had done on several of his Luke the Drifter recordings. The song about loneliness was largely inspired by his troubled relationship with wife Audrey Sheppard. With evocative lyrics, such as the opening lines "Hear that lonesome whip-poor-will/He sounds too blue to fly," the song has been covered by a wide range of musicians. During his Aloha from Hawaii TV-special, singer Elvis Presley introduced it by saying, "I'd like to sing a song that's...probably the saddest song I've ever heard."

Hank Williams Version[edit]

According to Colin Escott's 2004 book Hank Williams: A Biography, Williams was inspired to write the song when he found it on a schedule of upcoming MGM releases. The song was recorded by Williams on August 30 1949 at Herzog Studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. Williams is backed by members of the Pleasant Valley Boys - Zeke Turner (lead guitar), Jerry Byrd (steel guitar), and Louis Innis (rhythm guitar) - as well as Tommy Jackson (fiddle) and Ernie Newton (bass).[3] As Escott observes, the plaintive despair in Williams' voice on the recording is echoed by the backing of the musicians:

"Zeke Turner underpinned 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry' with recurring figures on the bass strings of the electric guitar. A few weeks earlier, Turner had led the backing on the Delmore Brothers' recording of 'Blues Stay Away From Me' using very similar licks...Jerry Byrd played a solo of unusual simplicity, paraphrashing the melody to haunting effect, subtly adjusting tone and volume. Hank sang with unshakable conviction."

Remarkably, the song was released as the B-side to the blues "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" because up-tempo numbers were deemed more appropriate for the jukebox trade than melancholy ballads. The single reached #4 on the country chart in 1949.[4] The song has become closely identified with Williams' legend and musical legacy and has been widely praised. In the 2003 documentary The Road to Nashville, singer k.d. lang stated, "I think 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry' is one of the most classic American songs ever written, truly. Beautiful song." In his autobiography, Bob Dylan states, "Even at a young age, I identified with him. I didn't have to experience anything that Hank did to know what he was singing about. I'd never heard a robin weep, but could imagine it and it made me sad."[5] In its online biography of the singer, Rolling Stone notes, "In tracks like 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry' Williams expressed intense, personal emotions with country's traditional plainspoken directness, a then-revolutionary approach that has come to define the genre through the works of subsequent artists from George Jones and Willie Nelson to Gram Parsons and Dwight Yoakam." Rolling Stone ranked it #111 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the oldest song on the list, and #3 on its 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time.

Cover versions[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

Hank Williams version[edit]

Year Chart Position
1949 Billboard Country Singles b-side of #2 "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It"
1966 Billboard Country Singles #43

Williams' version ranked #29 in CMT's 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music in 2003.

B. J. Thomas version[edit]

Year Chart Position
1966 Billboard Pop Singles #8

Charlie McCoy version[edit]

Year Chart Position
1972 Billboard Country Singles #23

Leon Russell version (credited to Hank Wilson)[edit]

Year Chart Position
1973 U.S. Billboard Hot 100 78

Terry Bradshaw version[edit]

Year Chart Position
1976 Billboard Country Singles #17

Jerry Lee Lewis version[edit]

Year Chart Position
1982 Billboard Country Singles #43

References[edit]

External links[edit]