Your Cheatin' Heart
by Hank Williams
Hank Williams, Sr. is so legendary that the real person almost doesn't exist anymore. Every detail of his life, from his childhood to his death, has been viewed through a magnifying glass. His "calling card," instead of being about who he really was, is about people's image of him. Hank was one of the earliest big pop stars in American music, and in some ways, he helped define the world of pop celebrity.
Williams was a superstar before there really were superstars. He was around before the days of celebrity magazines or national tabloids. There are only a couple of video recordings ever made of him. And there had never been a music star like Elvis (he would rise to stardom just after Hank's time), Bob Dylan or Beyoncé—mass media just wasn't far-reaching enough yet. To get into Hank Williams you had to either see him live, buy his record, or hear his music on the radio. It was downright impressive to have such a big following at that time. The mourning and the growing public obsession with Hank Williams made him "one of America's first celebrity death-cult heroes."
These days, celebrity death-cult heroes seem like they're a dime a dozen. Literally: we know dozens of stories about celebrities who died tragically young. Why are we so fascinated with celebrity, addiction, and death? Why do people love tragic fallen stars? The iconic image of Hank Williams may be a part of the source.