September 14

Because of a Feud, “Cold Cold Heart” by Hank Williams

Because of a Feud, "Cold Cold Heart" by Hank Williams 1

This song opened the music of Hank Williams Sr. to the entire world. the inspiration of the song “Cold Cold Heart” was born in a hospital. The wife of Hank, Audrey, had been fighting an illness for some time when she took a turn for the worse. Eventually, she was confined to a hospital bed for several days. Lonely and remorseful for the harsh words the couple exchanged, Hank decided to make a peace offering to her. Hank went shopping without consulting his wife first and bought her a mink coat. The he gathered up their children and happily headed to the hospital. He felt sure that his expensive gift would tear down the wall that had come between them.

When the family met, it was obvious that Audrey was happy to see the kids. However, she did not acknowledge the presence of Hank as he walked into the room. Even with the expensive mink coat, she still ignored him. During their entire visit she never spoke to him, nor did she acknowledge the apologies that he said. She acted like hank wasn’t even there and his gift unappreciated. Hank left the hospital defeated and dejected.

Hank rode home that day filled with anger and pain. He realized that a lot of what was wrong had been his fault. It was his drinking that was driving a deep wedge between them, but he thought he made it clear that he loved her more than his vices. He was willing to give up whatever it was keeping them apart, but to Hank, it seemed that Audrey was not like him and unwilling to do anything that would end their feud.

The family housekeeper, (whose first name also happened to be “Audrey”) Audrey Ragland, accompanied Hank and the kids to the hospital that day. Hank rarely drove, and on this particular day, Mrs. Ragland acted not only as the children’s nanny but as the driver too. While she was driving through Nashville on the way back from the hospital, she silently observed the brooding man sitting to her right. After several minutes, Mrs. Ragland finally asked Williams how he thought Mrs. Williams was doing. Looking over at her, his eyes sad and mournful, Hank replied: “she’s got the coldest heart I’ve ever seen.” Then he turned his head back to watch the road and seemed completely lost in thought. He said nothing more for the remainder of the trip.

That night, long after everyone else had gone to bed, Hank took a piece of paper and a pen and jotted down some of his random thoughts. As was often the case, his words quickly fell together into a song. Each of the new song’s lines was drawn from the most important relationship Hank had ever known. He must have realized as he wrote “Cold Cold Heart” that he had no chance of ever melting Audrey’s anger or healing her heartache. Nevertheless, this expression of his desire to do so would become his personal favorite of more than one hundred songs he wrote.

Since his death, Hank’s “Cold Cold Heart” has remained one of country music’s most beloved songs. A multitude of people has learned its words and felt its message. Countless fans have come to know Hank Williams because of this classic. Hank’s other songs may have sold better upon initial release, but “Cold Cold Heart” remains one of just a handful of true Williams classics.

Lyrically, I personally rate it as the second greatest country song ever written (my top choice is Bill Anderson’s “City Lights”). “Cold Cold Heart” is the one particular narrative which reveals not only what Hank wanted most, but how helpless was  he in trying to obtain it. In that song, one finds the essence of Hank Williams displayed for all the world to see.

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