Cold, Cold Heart

Album: Cold, Cold Heart (1952)

Songfacts®:

  • On April 23, 1952, Hank Williams made his second appearance on The Kate Smith Evening Hour where prior to performing "Cold, Cold Heart" with his band he told his television audience that it had bought him "quite a few beans and biscuits," and was the best song he'd had financially. It was indeed; according to Don Tyler's 2007 reference book Hit Songs 1900-1955: American Popular Music of the Pre-Rock Era, Tony Bennett's version spent six weeks at the top of the Billboard Chart in 1951 and was number 7 overall for the year. Hank's own version topped the Country chart, and the song has been recorded by many other artists since.

    The following year, prior to his monster success with "Rock Around The Clock," Bill Haley cut "Icy Heart," his first release on Essex Music; Haley had been a minor Country music star for years before the advent of rock 'n' roll, and "Icy Heart" was a clear (but failed) attempt to emulate Hank's success.
  • In Hank Williams: The Biography, authors Colin Escott, George Merritt and William MacEwen, detail the early history of "Cold, Cold Heart." It was originally intended to be the B-Side of "Dear John," which was written by Aubrey Gass - his biggest song and the only hit he ever wrote. This had first been recorded on March 11, 1949 by Jim Boyd. Hank recorded "Cold, Cold Heart" at an evening session at Castle on December 21, 1950, and it was released as the A-Side on February 2, 1951.

    Hank claimed on at least one occasion that he'd written it in about an hour, but the melody was copped note for note from T. Texas Tyler's 1945 recording of "You'll Still Be In My Heart," a song that had been copyrighted by Ted West in May 1943 then rewritten by Buddy Starcher and acquired in July of the same year by Clark Van Ness. This resulted in a legal action, and although the judgment was not made public, "the case was closed when Dixie Music was awarded its court costs of $5000 on January 13, 1955" - which indicates that the Plaintiff was successful, though Hank Williams was not around to see the outcome, he died in tragic circumstances on January 1, 1953 aged only twenty-nine, but whatever the merits of the legal case, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the song he recorded was written from the heart.
    Hank Williams married Audrey Sheppard in December 1944; he was her second husband, and the marriage was turbulent. In May 1949, they had a son (who would later take the name Hank Williams Junior). Audrey already had a daughter from her first marriage, and the couple had a nanny/governess, who was also named Audrey. In September 1950, Audrey Williams had an illegal abortion at home - without Hank's knowledge - and was subsequently hospitalized after contracting an infection. When Hank bent down to kiss her in her hospital bed, she turned away and said "You sorry son of a bitch" adding, "It was you that caused me to suffer this." Hank went home and told Audrey Ragland his wife had a "cold, cold heart." The lyrics reflect this:

    Another love before my time made your heart sad and blue, and so my heart is paying now for things I didn't do.

    This is a clear reference to her first marriage. The song ends, "Why can't I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart?" The reason may have had something to do with Hank's adultery! Audrey shut him out of her life, and filed for divorce on January 10, 1952. The following October, Hank married Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar, and five days after his death, his daughter Jett Williams was born to his mistress Bobbie Jett.
  • The British Library holds the sheet music for "Cold, Cold Heart," Featured & Broadcast by Margery Manners, published by The Victoria Music Publishing Co of London, Acuff-Rose Publications, Tennessee. This retailed for one shilling. Copyright was 1951 by Acuff-Rose Publications of Nashville. There is also an orchestral arrangement by Jimmy Lally. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 3
  • Norah Jones recorded a sultry swing cover version for her 2002 album Come Away With Me. Her LP has sold over 26 million copies worldwide and has re-introduced modern audiences to the song.

Comments: 3

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn November 11th 1962, Dinah Washington's covered version of "Cold, Cold Heart" entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart for a one week stay at position #96...
    In 1951 she released different version of the song, and it peaked at #3 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    Between 1944 and 1961 the 'Queen of the Blues' had forty-six records make the R&B Singles chart; and an amazing thirty-four of them made the Top 10 with five reaching #1, as a solo artist "Am I Asking Too Much" {1948}, "Baby Get Lost {1949}, and "This Bitter Earth" {1960}, then in duets with Brook Benton "Baby (You've Got What It Takes)" {1960} and "A Rockin' Good Way (to Mess Around and Fall in Love)" {1960}...
    Ms. Washington, born Ruth Lee Jones, passed away on December 14, 1963 at the young age of 39...
    May she R.I.P.
  • Joel from Cleveland, OhThis was also covered by Norah Jones.
  • Hank Williams Iii from Loganville, TnAnother amazing song from an amazing performer
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