Hank Williams – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry

One of the most beautiful songs ever written. The lyrics can be read without music and still work. The silence of a falling star, lights up a purple sky, and as I wonder where you are I’m so lonesome I could cry. Songwriters work all of their life trying to come up with a lines like that… Hank had a career of them.

It was originally the B side of “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It” released in 1949. The song later peaked at #43 in the Hot Country Charts in 1966.


From Songfacts.

One of the most heart-rending songs ever recorded, it was one of many songs Williams wrote to express his crippling gloom. Most of these songs were inspired by his tumultuous relationship with his first wife, Audrey; the state of their relationship can be neatly chronicled in Hank’s discography with titles like “Baby We’re Really in Love,” “They’ll Never Take Her Love Away From Me,” and “My Love For You (Has Turned To Hate).”

Williams wrote this as a spoken-word piece that he planned to record as his alter-ego, “Luke the Drifter,” which is explains why it contains very poetic imagery in lines like “Did you ever see a robin weep, when leaves begin to die?” Williams thought the piece was to genteel to put to music, but his friends and fellow musicians convinced him otherwise.

You would think that this song was recorded in Nashville, or at least Memphis, but it was done at a session in Cincinnati. Hank recorded it at the E.T Herzog Recording Studios on August 30, 1949 with Jerry Byrd on Steel Guitar, Zeke Turner on electric guitar, Tommy Jackson on Fiddle, Louis Innis on rhythm guitar, and Ernie Newton on bass. Note that there are no drums on the song.

Williams performed the song in October 1949 on his syndicated radio show, which was counterintuitively called the Health & Happiness Show (it was sponsored by a vitamin company called Hadacol, thus the name). The song was released on November 8 as a 78-RPM single with “My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It.” The song quickly became a favorite on Country radio and a staple of Williams’ live shows.

A Country music standard, many artists have recorded this song over the years in a variety of styles. B.J. Thomas had the biggest hit with his 1966 version, which made #8 in the US. Other charting entries were recorded by Johnny Tillotson (#89, 1962) and the football player Terry Bradshaw (#91, 1976). Other artists to record the song include Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Dean Martin, Al Green, Freddy Fender, Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Cowboy Junkies, and Elvis Presley.

Singers and songwriters have been heaping praise on this song for generations. In our interview with Vince Gill, he said: “Read the words of that song. That’s as beautiful as you’ll ever want to hear the English language put out.”

Kasey Chambers, who recorded it for her 2011 Storybook album, said: “It’s totally heartbreaking but you don’t want to stop listening to it. Oh God, it just makes you want to crawl into a hole. It has that combination of making you feel good and bad at the same time, which is what all great country music does.”

Kris Kristofferson sang this in the 1974 film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and Chris Isaak performed it in the 1996 film Mr. Wrong. The song also appeared in the movies Dutch (1991), The Beverly Hillbillies (1993), Down in the Valley (2005) and Zombieland (2009). TV shows to use the song include The Virginian (1964), Miami Vice (1988), King of the Hill (1998) and The Wire (2004).

To put this song’s impact in context: Rolling Stone ranked it #111 in the list of 500 greatest songs of all time; making “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” not only the second-oldest song on the list, but one of only two from the 1940s.

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry

Hear that lonesome whippoorwill,
He sounds too blue to fly.
That midnight train is whining low,
I’m so lonesome I could cry.

I’ve never seen a night so long
When time goes crawling by.
The moon just went behind a cloud
To hide its face and cry.

Did you ever see a robin weep,
When leaves begin to die? 
That mean he’s lost the will to live,
I’m so lonesome I could cry.

The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple sky.
And as I wonder where you are
I’m so lonesome I could cry.

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

12 thoughts on “Hank Williams – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”

  1. You can never go wrong with the Hillbilly Shakespeare! To think he never saw 30- yet left behind such a rich catalog of classic songs. The first punk rocker. Merle Haggard is my favorite country artist but I’d have a hard time arguing against Hank Williams being the GOAT. These country artists of today should spend more time listening to Hank and less time listening to Kiss.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. He is timeless and never knew it. The funny thing is I didn’t pay much attention to him until I found out that Bob admired him…then I saw why.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When I was very young he is the first music i can remember hearing- my father liked the great country music. I liked this so much I’d play Hank even when my dad was at work. I never thought about that- but at the time of his death- at what 29? He had no way of knowing his legacy.


      2. Spam filter catch… My father also liked country music…Merle Haggard…a song called “Sam Hill” is one of my earliest memories…No there is no way Hank could have known. A brilliant songwriter.

        BTW… Thanks again for the three recommendations. We just finished The Sopranos a few minutes ago. I think that may be my favorite out of the 3 series…It could be it’s because I just watched it but I’m a huge fan of Goodfellas and this is like a 6 season movie. What a job James Gandolfini did…so believable. I will watch this again… The only character I wanted to really strangle was AJ…whew.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The Sopranos- excellent stuff. I can’t imagine anyone being Tony but Gandolfini. I haven’t watched it since he died- I need to watch it again- for the 4th or 5th time. Yes AJ I agree LOL..

        Liked by 1 person

  2. We agree, Bad, this song certainly stands the test of time. Perhap, you could check out Ernest Tubbs version some time. Very plaintive but Hank is still the King.

    Liked by 1 person

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