‘I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive’: Hank Williams’ Sadly Poignant Swansong

Just 12 days after he entered the country chart with the late 1952 single, Hank was dead.

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Hank Williams - Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Hank Williams - Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

For all of his recurring problems with drugs and alcohol and the collapse of his marriage, the Hank Williams of late 1952 could do little wrong among his legions of fans. It was the year that produced such undisputed classics as “Honky Tonk Blues,” “Jambalaya (On The Bayou),” “Settin’ The Woods On Fire” and “You Win Again.”

I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive

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That summer, frail and ill, Williams was at Castle Studio in Nashville recording a song that he and co-writer Fred Rose gave a deliberately jokey, irreverent title. Sadly, it was to become poignant within weeks. “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive” entered the country charts on December 20, 1952. Twelve days later, at the age of just 29, Hank Williams was dead.

The lyric and tone of the song would have been amusing if they didn’t soon become associated with tragedy. “My distant uncle passed away and left me quite a batch,” sang Hank, “and I was livin’ high until the fatal day a lawyer proved I wasn’t born, I was only hatched.”

A posthumous No.1

The MGM single thus became the last in an all-too-short career that almost immediately assumed iconic proportions. En route to a gig in Canton, Ohio on New Year’s Day, 1953, his heart, worn down by the years of abuse he had put his body through, simply gave out. Some three weeks later, “I’ll Never…” became Hank’s eighth country No.1.

Listen to uDiscover Music’s Country Music In 20 Songs playlist.

The truth is that Williams’ popularity was so widespread that the would probably have gone to the top anyway, and indeed his next three posthumous singles — the double-sided “Kaw-Liga” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Take These Chains From My Heart” — were all chart-topping songs too. Rose himself passed away at the end of 1954; fittingly, he and Hank joined Jimmie Rodgers as the first three inductees of the Country Music Hall of Fame, when it was founded in 1961.

Buy or stream “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive” on 40 Greatest Hits.



  1. Richard cole

    May 7, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    I’m now 43 Grew up on Hank and now listen to 3 generations of Hank Williams each one has a sound I can appricate but must say Sr is still the greatest in my book

    • Traci Holland

      July 19, 2016 at 10:12 am

      In my opinion, he is the ONLY Hank that counts! Jr and III don’t, and will NOT ever come anywhere close.

      • Laurie

        July 20, 2016 at 11:47 am

        Your narrow-minded ill-mannered hit. I’m sure if Hank senior were here he would appreciate his son and grandsons music. I’m sure that Junior and Hank 3 care less what you think because they play from the heart just like Hank senior. People in the country music industry Revere all of the Williams. Johnny Cash and June Carter they loved jr. Marty Stuart Hank 3,.
        It’s a shame you cannot open up your heart to listen to Quality country music.

  2. john shaw

    January 7, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    great music

  3. jJIM

    December 20, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    i love this man as a kid i brought all of his records and still have all after all these 64 years i wanted to be like ole hank

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