Your Cheatin' Heart
In a Nutshell
Ever been jealous? Worse yet, ever been jealous and then found out you had a pretty good reason to feel that way?
If you said yes to either of these questions (and most people will), we have just the song for you. Hank Williams' 1953 release "Your Cheatin' Heart" was named country music's number one "Done-Me-Wrong Song" of all time. The song, which sounds pretty cheerful on the surface, is a bittersweet little piece of catharsis that has transcended boundaries of both time and genre. Since Williams' untimely death, which occurred before the song's release, "Your Cheatin' Heart" has been covered by everyone from Elvis
to Ray Charles
to Beck. For the true catharsis experience, try crooning along with Hank Sr. to this one. It's much, much safer than morphine.
About the Song
||Musician(s)||Hank Williams (vocals), Chet Atkins (guitar), Don Helms (steel guitar)
|Album||Your Cheatin' Heart|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
Now, it might be kind of taboo to say it, but death really can send an already-popular person's popularity through the roof. We saw it recently with Michael Jackson
(whose sales skyrocketed
after he died in 2009). We've seen it before with tragic stars like Kurt Cobain
, Jimi Hendrix
and Tupac. Just think about how people would react if a young star like, say, Lil Wayne died today. Imagine the public mourning. Imagine the record sales.
That was Hank Williams, who started his career at age 15, made it big by 25, and died of a heart attack induced by drugs and alcohol on New Years Day, 1953, at only 29. He was famous for his public drunkenness, womanizing, and temper as much as for his great songs. We here at Shmoop have called him "the most legendary figure in the history of country music"
, and USA today called him "one of America's first celebrity death-cult heroes."
Read on to find out how this skinny little man with bad social skills achieved so much glamour and glory.
On the Charts
"Your Cheatin' Heart" was recorded in 1952 and released after Williams' tragic death in 1953. The song topped the country music charts for six consecutive weeks.
A cover of the song by Joni James also hit #2 on the Billboard pop chart in 1953. Another cover by Frankie Laine, released the same year, peaked at #18. Others who have covered the song include Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Don McLean and Beck.
"Your Cheatin' Heart" was #5 on CMT's 2003 listing of the 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music
The song was #1 in CMT's 2004 listing of the 40 Greatest Done-Me-Wrong Songs
(songs about cheating, heartbreak, and revenge).
"Your Cheatin' Heart" was listed at #213 on Rolling Stone'
s "500 Greatest Songs of All Time"
in 2004. Prince's "1999" barely beat out Williams at #212.
Hank Williams was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame
In 1999, Williams was inducted into the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame in Albuquerque, NM. Williams had Cherokee and Creek heritage.
In 2010, the Pulitzer Prize committee gave Williams a special posthumous citation
for "his craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life."