Let’s begin by listening to the accolades of people that know a factor or two about songwriting themselves. Kasey Chambers: “It’s completely heartbreaking however you don’t wish to cease listening to it. Oh God, it simply makes you wish to crawl right into a gap. It has that mixture of constructing you’re feeling good and unhealthy on the similar time, which is what all nice nation music does.” Vince Gill: “Learn the phrases of that tune. That’s as stunning as you’ll ever wish to hear the English language put out.” Bob Dylan: “Even at a younger age, I recognized with him. I didn’t should expertise something that Hank did to know what he was singing about. I’d by no means heard a robin weep, however may think about it and it made me unhappy.”
The artist to whom they’re referring, after all, is Hank Williams, and the tune is “I’m So Lonesome I Might Cry.” Recorded in 1949 and reflecting Hank’s tormented emotions towards Audrey Sheppard, his first spouse, the tune stands because the unattainable customary that each nation tear-jerker in its wake wish to meet. Solely it doesn’t obtain its desired impact by somebody reciting a protracted litany of non-public issues. As a substitute Williams imbibes the world round him on a random night and finds each sight and sound to be a mirrored image of his personal distress.
Williams initially needed to current the tune with spoken-word lyrics however was urged so as to add a melody. That was a smart alternative, as a result of, for one, it permits for instrumental elaborations just like the sighing metal guitar and forlorn fiddle. As a singer, Williams doesn’t over-emote, as an alternative merely stretching the syllables out for so long as potential in order that the pure catch in his voice suggests his solitude.
The delicate genius of the lyrics is how the totally different phenomena that Williams describes solely develop into lonely by his notion of them. The place others is perhaps charmed by birdsong, intrigued by a midnight prepare, and enchanted by a falling star, the narrator right here solely senses sorrow, anguish and desolation.
He personifies the moon and imagines him hiding behind the cloud to weep. The precise size of a particular evening is set by the point of the 12 months it inhabits, but Williams’ assertion that “I’ve by no means seen an evening so lengthy/ When time goes crawling by” is clearly associated to his woeful way of thinking and would have been correct to him even on the summer time solstice.
All of those interpretations pile up and are punctuated by the title chorus that ties all of them collectively. Williams lets his plainspoken poetics do all of the work whereas holding again the actual trigger for his distress. That makes his revelation of that trigger much more impactful when it lastly comes within the songs’ closing strains: “And as I’m wondering the place you might be/ I’m so lonesome I may cry.”
The tune way back transcended its nation roots. You’ll be able to draw a by line from “I’m So Lonesome I Might Cry” to the output of soul-bearers as far-flung as Brian Wilson, Townes Van Zandt and Elliott Smith. And among the most iconic artists, like Dylan, Elvis Presley and Johnny Money, have lined it. What all of them realized was one thing that Hank Williams knew nicely forward of his time: When sorrow appears as large because the world, it will probably solely be precisely expressed in these phrases.