Wednesday, May 12, 1971

50 years ago: Hank Williams “Cold Cold Heart” hit #1 on country chart

Cold, Cold Heart

Hank Williams

Writer(s): Hank Williams (see lyrics here)

Released: February 2, 1951

First Charted: March 17, 1951

Peak: 27 US, 2 HP, 1 CB, 11 CW, 17 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 13.2 video, -- streaming

Cold, Cold Heart

Tony Bennett with Percy Faith’s Orchestra

Released: July 2, 1951

First Charted: July 28, 1951

Peak: 16 US, 2 HP, 1 CB (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, -- video, -- streaming

Awards (Williams):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Bennett):

About the Song:

Hank Williams was only 29 years old when he died on New Year’s Day 1953. Thanks to hard living, “he could have passed for 50.” LW In his short life, however, he “set the parameters of country music.” LW He was “a master of the three-chord song” LW and “the spirit and the look of country music, all cowboy hat and rhinestones.” LW “He had a gift of sounding as though he lived in his songs, and…he probably did.” LW He is “one of a handful of performers who have shaped the music of the [21st] century.” LW

“The inspiration for the song which would really open Hank Williams’s music to the whole world was born in a hospital.” AC His wife, Audrey, was suffering from an infection brought on by a self-performed abortion, unbeknownst to Hank. WK He went to visit her, offering up a mink coat to apologize for the problems he caused. His drinking drove a wedge between them, but he thought he could make it clear “he loved her even more than he loved his vices.” AC When his housekeeper asked about how Audrey was doing, Williams said “she’s got the coldest heart I’ve ever seen.” AC

That night he wrote down his thoughts, crafting what “would become his personal favorite of the more than one hundred songs he wrote.” AC The melody was adapted from “You’ll Still Be in My Heart,” a song written by Ted West in 1943 and recorded two years later by T. Texas Tyler. WK Williams recorded the song on December 21, 1950.

“This is the song which reveals not only what Hank most wanted, but how helpless he was in trying to obtain it.” AC Williams had other songs which topped the country charts for more weeks, but “Cold, Cold Heart” “lingered on radio station playlists for forty-six weeks.” AC It has become “one of country music’s most beloved songs.” AC

Crooner Tony Bennett recorded the song with an orchestra and took it to the top of the pop charts. “Many critics credit this single with fully establishing Bennett as a star.” AC It also paved “the way for country stars to make inroads into the lucrative pop market.” WK “Real country music by real country performers had crossed over.” LW


  • AC Ace Collins (1996). The Stories Behind Country Music’s All-Time Greatest 100 Songs. New York, NY; The Berkley Publishing Group. Pages 74-75.
  • LW Alan Lewens (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 93.
  • WK Wikipedia

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First posted 11/22/2022.

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