|"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"|
|Single by Hank Williams|
|A-side||"My Bucket's Got a Hole in It"|
|Released||November 8, 1949|
|Recorded||August 30, 1949|
|Studio||Herzog Studio, Cincinnati|
|Songwriter(s)||Hank Williams (see text)|
|Hank Williams singles chronology|
The song has been covered by a wide range of musicians. During his Aloha from Hawaii TV-special, 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
According to Colin Escott's 2004 book Hank Williams: A Biography, Williams was inspired to write the song when he found it[clarification needed] on a schedule of upcoming MGM releases. The song was recorded 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). As Escott observed, the plaintive despair in Williams's 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, paraphrasing the melody to haunting effect, subtly adjusting tone and volume. Hank sang with unshakable conviction.
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 No. 4 on the country chart in 1949.
"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" has become closely identified with Williams's 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 recalled, "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." In its online biography of Williams, 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 No. 111 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the oldest song on the list, and No. 3 on its 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time.
Music journalist Chet Flippo and Kentucky historian W. Lynn Nickell have each claimed how 19-year-old Kentuckian Paul Gilley wrote the lyrics, then sold the song to Williams along with the rights, allowing Williams to take credit for it. They stated that Gilley also wrote the lyrics to "Cold, Cold Heart" and other songs before drowning at the age of 27. However, Williams said he wrote the song originally intending that the words be spoken, rather than sung, as he had done on several of his Luke the Drifter recordings.
- American singer–songwriter BJ Thomas recorded this song in 1966.
- The song was recorded on the 1973 Glen Campbell LP I Remember Hank Williams.
- Al Green performed the song on his 1973 album Call Me.
- Terry Bradshaw, at the time the starting quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, recorded the song in 1976. Bradshaw's version was a top-20 hit on the country charts.
- Cowboy Junkies covered the song on their 1988 album The Trinity Session
- King Missile covered the song on their 1991 "My Heart Is a Flower" single.
- John Waite covered the song on his 1995 album Temple Bar
- Cassandra Wilson covered the song on her 1995 Grammy Award winning album New Moon Daughter
- Akiko Yano released a cover of "I'm So Lonesome I could Cry" in her 1997 album Oui Oui.
- Keb' Mo' covered the song for the Hank Williams tribute album Timeless (2001).
- Johnny Cash covered the song on multiple occasions, including on the album American IV: The Man Comes Around in a duet with Nick Cave, a lifelong fan of Cash who picked the song after Rick Rubin asked him what song he would most like to sing if the two were to collaborate.
- Everlast has covered the song in concerts, and sampled the original for the song "This Kind Of Lonely" on the 2004 album White Trash Beautiful.
- Me First and the Gimme Gimmes covered the song on their 2006 album Love Their Country
- Volbeat covered this song on their 2008 album Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood
- Australian singer Gina Jeffreys covered the song on her album, Old Paint (2010).
- Evanescence singer Amy Lee performed the song at the 2012 live tribute concert We Walk the Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash.
- Hurray for the Riff Raff covered the song on the 2013 album My Dearest Darkest Neighbor.* Guitarists John Scofield's album Country For Old Men (2016) contains an instrumental jazz interpretation.
- Yo La Tengo covered this song on their 2016 album Stuff Like That There
Hank Williams version
|1949||Billboard Country Singles||b-side of "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It"|
|1966||Billboard Country Singles||No. 43|
Williams' version ranked No. 29 in CMT's 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music in 2003.
B. J. Thomas version
|1966||Billboard Hot 100||No. 8|
Charlie McCoy version
|1972||Billboard Country Singles||No. 23|
Leon Russell version (credited to Hank Wilson)
|1973||Billboard Hot 100||No. 78|
Terry Bradshaw version
|1976||Billboard Country Singles||No. 17|
|1976||Billboard Hot 100||No. 91|
Jerry Lee Lewis version
|1982||Billboard Country Singles||No. 43|
- Escott, Merritt & MacEwen 2004, p. 125.
- Escott, Merritt & MacEwen 2004.
- Hank Williams, "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" Chart Positions, Musicvf.com, Retrieved March 31, 2014
- Dylan, Bob (7 July 2011). Chronicles. Simon and Schuster. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-85720-958-0.
- KET - Kentucky Educational Television (29 July 2013). "Songwriter Paul Gilley - Kentucky Life - KET". YouTube. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
- "New biography on Morgan Co. songwriter Paul Gilley". Appalachian Attitude. WMMT 88.7 Mountain Community Radio. July 2, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
- Staff (June 6, 2012). "E.Ky. writer penned two of Hank Sr.'s biggest hits". The Mountain Eagle. Whitesburg, Kentucky.
- Chet Flippo (1997). Your Cheatin' Heart: A Biography of Hank Williams (revised ed.). Plexo. pp. 7, 130, 150. ISBN 9780859652322.
- Escott, Merritt & MacEwen 2004, p. 124.
- "Temple Bar - John Waite | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
- "[Akiko Yano Official Website] Discographies". Akikoyano.com. Retrieved 2016-11-14.
- Escott, Colin; Merritt, George; MacEwen, William (2004). Hank Williams: The Biography. New York: Little, Brown.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)