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

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

On this day in history, Jan. 1, 1953, music legend Williams passed away at just 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 log company workers, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

In addition to growing up in a family dealing with poverty, Williams himself was managing a different type of struggle. 

American country singer and songwriter Hank Williams started playing the guitar when he was just eight years old. 

American country singer and songwriter Hank Williams started playing the guitar when he was just eight 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 in the spine, as a result of incomplete formation during the mother’s pregnancy. 

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Williams experienced pain throughout his life as a result. 

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

Country singer Hank Williams spent most of his time in Alabama, calling himself the

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

In 1937, Williams’ mother moved the family to Montgomery, Alabama, where Williams, at age 14, formed his first band named 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 to serve. That made it difficult for the band to carry on. 

Hank Williams (center, with hat and guitar) and the Drifting Cowboys pose for a photo at the studios of WSM Radio, circa 1950, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Hank Williams (center, with hat and guitar) and the Drifting Cowboys pose for a photo at the studios of WSM Radio, circa 1950, in Nashville, Tennessee.
(Michael Ochs Archives/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 and Audrey Williams, shown here, had one son together: Hank Williams Jr., born in May 1949. 

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

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

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Some of his other smash 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 is shown on the left — and is with his bandmates on the right. 

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

Just two months later, Williams died of heart failure. 

His death may have resulted from years of drug and alcohol abuse, according to Britannica. 

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The son whom he and Audrey had together — Hank Williams Jr. — has had a successful music career himself. 

He was born in May 1949 and today is 73 years old. 

Brittany Kasko is a lifestyle production assistant with Fox News Digital. 

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