On this day, January 1, 1953, country music legend Hank Williams dies.


Country music is one of the oldest and most popular musical genres in history.

And Hank Williams, a country music icon, was one of the leading American singers of the 1940s.

On this day, January 1, 1953, music legend Williams passed away at only 29 years old.

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Hank Williams was born Hiram King Williams in Mount Olive, Alabama, to a family of strawberry farmers and lumber company workers, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In addition to growing up in a family that struggled with poverty, Williams himself was facing a different kind of struggle.

American country singer and songwriter Hank Williams started playing guitar when he was just 8 years old. (Getty Images)

Williams was born with a spinal deformity called spina bifida occulta.

In this condition, people suffer from a small gap between the bones of the spine as a result of incomplete formation during the mother’s pregnancy.

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As a result, Williams experienced pain throughout his life.

He started playing guitar when he was just 8 years old and made his first radio debut at 13, according to Britannica.

Hank Williams

Country singer Hank Williams spent most of his time in Alabama, calling himself the “Hillbilly Shakespeare.” (Michael Ochs Files/Getty Images)

In 1937, Williams’ mother moved the family to Montgomery, Alabama, where Williams, at age 14, formed his first band called Hank Williams and his Drifting Cowboys.

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Williams was exempt from military service during the war due to his spinal deformity, but many of his bandmates were called up to serve. That made it difficult for the band to move forward.

Hank Williams

Hank Williams (center, with hat and guitar) and the Drifting Cowboys pose for a photograph at the WSM Radio studios, circa 1950, in Nashville, Tennessee. (Michael Ochs Files/Getty Images)

He spent time between Montgomery, where he played music, and Mobile, where he worked in shipyards, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Williams married Audrey Mae Sheppard, his manager, in December 1944 and restarted the Drifting Cowboys after the war.

“Lovesick Blues” was a hit in 1949, allowing him to join the Grand Ole Opry that same year.

Hank Williams

Hank and Audrey Williams, shown here, had one son together: Hank Williams Jr., born in May 1949. (Michael Ochs Files/Getty Images)

Known for his lyrics and his ability to successfully create a country hit, Williams was considered the “Hillbilly Shakespeare” of his time.

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Some of his other big hits include “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Jambalaya,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Hey, Good Lookin’.”

After divorcing Audrey in 1952, he married singer Billie Jean Horton.

Hank Williams

Hank Williams is shown on the left and with his bandmates on the right. (Getty Images)

Just two months later, Williams died of heart failure.

His death may have been the result of years of drug and alcohol abuse, according to Britannica.

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He and Audrey’s son together, Hank Williams Jr., has also had a successful music career.

He was born in May 1949 and is 74 years old today.

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