There are only a few country music artists that can equal Hank Thompson’s longevity and track record. Between the 1940s and 1870s, Hank Thompson songs dominated the country chart – scoring no less than thirty Top Ten hits. Many of these he wrote himself, thus proving his caliber in the genre’s great singer-songwriter tradition.
Thompson continued to record and perform all over the seven continents throughout the 21st century, earning him the distinction of a seven-decade career and further forging himself as a stalwart of country music.
Today, let’s celebrate Hank Thompson‘s life and legacy by looking at some of his greatest hits.
1. The Wild Side of Life
This song did not only become Thompson’s signature tune but also one of the most popular recordings in the history of country music. “The Wild Side of Life” spent fifteen weeks atop Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart – solidifying Thompson’s status as a country music superstar.
But most importantly, it yielded Kitty Wells’ answer song, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” which made a historic feat of being the first hit single by a female artist.
2. Honky-Tonk Girl
Thompson comes with a warning in a song he co-wrote with Chuck Harding, telling everybody not to get fooled by a girl’s big blue eyes, smile, or golden eyes. “For she’ll love you now and then break every vow,” Thompson sings, stirring up a barroom atmosphere.
The song was notably covered by Johnny Cash in 1960.
Would you believe that this song was based on the 18th-century nursery rhyme of the same title? It spent three weeks at No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, where it stayed for twenty remarkable weeks.
This is actually Thompson’s second hit record that’s based on a nursery rhyme – with “Humpty Dumpty Heart” being the first one.
4. Oklahoma Hills
Written by Woody Guthrie, the song was popularized by his cousin Jack Guthrie in 1945. Since then, several artists have released their version of “Oklahoma Hills,” such as Chet Atkins, Gene Autry, Tommy Collins, Bruce Springsteen, and of course, Thompson.
Thompson’s recording with swing rendition became one of the most well-known versions, reaching No. 10 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.
5. Wake Up, Irene
Written by Johnny Hathcock and Weldon Allard, “Wake Up, Irene” is a parody and answer song to the 20th-century American folk standard, “Goodnight, Irene.”
It tells the story of how Irene is having a hard time sleeping for many months because of the steel guitars and all the people around singing her good night. Finally, Irene hits the sack in this song, and there’s no single thing that can wake her.
6. Squaws Along the Yukon
An earlier version of the song was recorded and released in the 1940s, but it only became famous eighteen years later when it was recorded by Thompson. His version reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, where it remained for twenty-two weeks.
The song tells the story of a white man and how his heart goes awhirl with a “salmon-colored girl” living along the Yukon. However, the classic ballad is now considered inappropriate by modern standards, with today’s listeners complaining about its “misogynist and racial slurs.”
7. Waiting in the Lobby of Your Heart
Thompson shows he’s a hopeless romantic as he sings how he endures loneliness after he was rejected by the woman he loves – quite one too many times. Still, he chose to wait and hoped she’d change her mind one day.
8. The New Green Light
This time, Thompson expressed the dreadful pain of letting someone go after finding out that his woman had fooled him all those years. “Babe, there’s the green light; you’re free to go. You’ll take a high road; I’ll take the low. Here’s your coat and shoes, and don’t forget your blues,” Thompson sings.
Some More Hank Thompson Songs That You Need To Know
Here are some of the greatest hits of Hank Thompson that have since become the living root of country music. Keep on scrolling below.
Truly, there’s no one quite like Hank Thompson. The songs he left behind continue to live in the hearts of many country music fans.