Hank Williams honored with Hank 100 centennial celebration

The country icon will see birthday tributes and more

As the 100th anniversary of Hank Williams’ birth approaches on Sunday, September 17th, it’s impossible to overstate the impact and influence the legendary singer/songwriter with the distinctive voice has had on popular music. Lovingly called the “Hillbilly Shakespeare” for his poetic, evocative lyrics, unparalleled storytelling, and ability to encapsulate the joys and sorrows of the everyman in song, Williams was the father of contemporary country music and its first bonafide superstar. A troubled figure who embodied his deeply emotional songs – he personified his heartrending music until his life was cut tragically short at the age of 29 at the height of his fame – he paved the way for all that would follow in his footsteps.

Williams’ extraordinary career and remarkable legacy will be honored throughout the next year around the world with a host of events, new releases, a poignant cover, tribute shows, induction into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame Museum, and much more.

“Hank Williams was a force of nature who left an incredible catalog of songs that are still seen as the highest standard of the craft of songwriting. UMe remains honored to be the stewards of his timeless songs and to help further his legacy by continuing to introduce new generations to his music,” states Bruce Resnikoff, President & CEO of UMe, the global catalog division of Universal Music Group.

“Hank Williams is one of the crucial cornerstones upon which the American art form of country music is built. He was able to fuse country with the blues and gospel in a way that stripped popular music to its essence with an appeal beyond genre and culture. His songs are performed every day in the honky-tonks on Lower Broadway in Nashville, but also by artists all over the world. We are proud to represent the evergreen catalog of Hank Williams and introduce new generations to one of the finest purveyors of three chords and the truth,” adds Cindy Mabe, Chair & CEO of UMG Nashville.

Williams released dozens of hits in his brief time such as “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Honky Tonkin’,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Lovesick Blues,” and “Jambalaya (On The Bayou),” leaving an enduring legacy that only continues to grow year after year. When Williams made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry in 1949, he became the first performer to ever receive six encores. The pioneering songwriter was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2010 Williams was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for his “craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life.” Upon inducting the trailblazing artist into its inaugural class of the Country Music Hall of Fame, they declared that Williams “set the agenda for contemporary country songcraft” and the “standard by which success is measured in country music.” He remains arguably the most important figure in country music history.

The international centennial celebration Hank 100 launches with the release of a new digital collection from Mercury Nashville/UMe entitled Hank Williams 100 that pairs 19 of Williams’ most popular songs and greatest hits across the musical and emotional spectrum. Divided into two parts, the first half offers up some of Williams’ more upbeat and lighthearted fare such as “Jambalaya (On The Bayou),” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “Move It On Over,” “Honky Tonkin’,” “Settin’ The Woods On Fire,” and “I Saw The Light,” with his darker, more introspective and mournful material including “Lost Highway, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Lovesick Blues,” “Honky Tonk Blues,” “(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle,” “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” and “Alone and Forsaken” which was prominently featured on HBO’s hit show, “The Last Of Us,” earlier this year, introducing a whole new generation to Williams’ timeless music. Collectively these songs have inspired several books and biopics, soundtracked dozens of TV shows and films and been covered by hundreds of artists over the decades from across the world of country, rock, pop, jazz and beyond.

Nashville singer/songwriter Sam Williams celebrates country pioneer and grandfather Hank Williams’ legacy and 100th birthday with a soothing rendition of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” In true Sam Williams fashion, his beautiful voice is laced with hints of sorrow, vulnerability, and acceptance.

“This song is special to me in many ways. I have always been hesitant to touch recording my grandfather’s songs, as there’s a sacredness to them. I wouldn’t want to do them injustice. ‘ISLICC’ has always been one of my favorites of his catalog,” Sam Williams shares. “The release coinciding with his centennial birthday is a bittersweet happy birthday gift to the man I never knew that everyone seems to know. It is a reclamation of my name, my destiny in my family’s legacy, and a statement to country music. History and homage, respect and reinvention, tattered and stolen coattails; I am a most honorable mention.”

Williams will make his return to the Grand Ole Opry tonight (Sat, Sept 16th) for a special performance at 7:30 pm. Gary Mule Deer, Logan Ledger, Needtobreathe, and more are set to perform.

The Rockabilly Hall of Fame Museum, in collaboration with the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, announces the grand celebration of the induction of Williams into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame Museum. The induction presentation of the Alabama native and internationally acclaimed country music legend will be held tomorrow (Sun, Sept 17th). To mark this historic milestone, the Hank Williams Museum has organized a spectacular three-day gala concert, September 15-17, held at Troy University’s Davis Theatre in Montgomery. This exceptional event will feature a captivating lineup, including renowned country and bluegrass acts, as well as talented tribute artists who will perform in the distinctive style of Williams. The weekend festivities will conclude with a graveside memorial service at Williams’ gravesite in the Oakwood Cemetery Annex in Montgomery on his 100th birthday, September 17th.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is celebrating Williams’ 100th birthday with Hank’s 100th: A Concert in Celebration of Hank Williams, presented by Spotify in partnership with the Americana Music Association. A diverse representation of the Americana community will be coming together during the upcoming Americana Music Festival in Nashville at the CMA Theater on Thursday, September 21st to perform interpretations of Williams’ classics in various styles, from honky-tonk to bluegrass to rock and R&B. The event will feature Brennen Leigh, Chuck Mead, Delbert McClinton, Della Mae, Laura Cantrell, Rodney Crowell, S.G. Goodman, Suzy Bogguss, Crowell, Wendy Moten, Country Music Hall of Fame members Charlie McCoy and Connie Smith, with more to be announced. Hilary Williams, Holly Williams, and Sam Williams will pay special tribute to their grandfather at this not-to-be-missed event. Chris Scruggs will lead the house band for the festivities, which will also include Billy Contreras, Jared Manzo, Kenny Vaughan and Wes L’Anglois. The concert is included with AmericanaFest conference registration or museum admission and is free to museum members.

Fork Fest, held in the historic village of Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, will celebrate Williams on his 100th birthday tomorrow with a tribute concert by Shawn Williams playing Williams’ hits. The show will be held in the Lawnchair Theatre, not far from Williams’ former Leiper’s Fork farm and home, Beechwood Hall. This year’s event marks the 10th anniversary of Fork Fest and is free and open to the public.

Fans of Hank Williams around the world, from the US to the UK to Australia and the Netherlands, will be celebrating with a variety of events of all shapes and sizes, ranging from tribute concerts to classic country DJ sets.

Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites. Email: info@themusicuniverse.com