Hank was 29 when he died in 1953 of drug and alcohol-related problems. His father fell off a truck and severely injured his head putting him the hospital for 8 years and beyond. During the depression, his mom Lilly struggled to support him and his sister working in a cannery, as a night nurse, and by running boarding houses in various towns. She also persevered to get the disability payment due her for her husband's death pension.
Besides those challenges, Hank was born with spina bifida occulta which gave him chronic pain. He was often given morphine to ease that pain – addiction developed easily. That, mixed with his copious drinking, caused him head injuries and other injuries in fights. Alcohol caused him the loss of his 15-minute daily show at WSFA, and gigs, including those at the Grand Ol Opry. He met his idol Roy Acuff backstage at the Grand Ol' Opry - who later warned him of the dangers of alcohol, saying: "You've got a million-dollar talent, son, but a ten-cent brain". Sad that blocking the pain prevents us from being able to source it and to eradicate that source.
Billie could never sing a song after this one it made her so sad. Lyris were the poem written by Abe Meeropol whose parents were electrocuted in the McCarthy era as Communists in 1953.
(from Wikipedia): "...In the late 1930s, Pellison says, Meeropol "was very disturbed at the continuation of racism in America, and seeing a photograph of a lynching sort of put him over the edge...."
Who likes to be confrronted by the truth.
"...Meeropol once said the photograph "haunted" him "for days." So he wrote a poem about it, which was then printed in a teachers union publication. An amateur composer, Meeropol also set his words to music. He played it for a New York club owner — who ultimately gave it to Billie Holiday...."