In 1950, Hank Williams recorded “Cold, Cold Heart” at Castle Studio, Nashville. The song was then released as the B-side to “Dear John” – which ranked No. 8 on the country chart. However, “Cold, Cold Heart” proved to be a much more popular favorite among disc jockeys and jukebox listeners, whose enthusiasm brought the song to the top of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.
Williams also performed the song at the variety program, The Kate Smith Evening Hour – where prior to his performance with his band, he told the audience that “Cold, Cold Heart” was the best song he’d had financially.
Well, indeed, he was true! That same year, Tony Bennett recorded and released a pop version of “Cold, Cold Heart” – which spent a total of twenty-seven weeks on the Billboard chart, peaking at No. 1. The success of Bennett’s version helped bring brand new audiences both to Hank Williams songs and country music.
Since then, the popular ballad has been recorded by a plethora of artists.
The Story Behind The Song
Written by Hank Williams, “Cold, Cold Heart” is a dark ballad filled with resentment, bitterness, and hopeless love.
In one episode of the Emmy-winning documentary series American Masters, country music historian Colin Escott took a closer look at the enduring life of Williams. He said that the country legend was moved to write “Cold, Cold Heart” after visiting his wife Audrey Williams in the hospital.
Williams thought that his being there – along with the presents he had brought – would tear down the wall that had come between them. However, much to his surprise, Audrey never spoke to him during his entire visit.
With his eyes sad and mournful, Williams told the family housekeeper: “She’s got the coldest heart I’ve ever seen.” And his words quickly fell together into a song!
You can listen to “Cold, Cold Heart” by Hank Williams in the video below.