Country Music Legend, Don Williams Dies at 78


Gbedu magazine reveals that Country music star and Hall of Fame member, Don Williams, who is also known as the Gentle Giant has passed on at the age of 78 after a short illness.

Never entirely comfortable in the limelight, Mr. Williams nonetheless found himself in it, as 17 of his singles, including earnest declarations like “You’re My Best Friend” and “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good,” reached the top of the Billboard country chart from 1974 to 1984.

Williams found enthusiastic fans in Britain, where his admirers included the rock stars Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, and many all over the world.

Named male vocalist of the year by the Country Music Association in 1978, Late Williams released 52 Top 40 country singles in all, 45 of them rising as high as the Top 10, before the hits stopped coming in the 1990s.

Nicknamed the Gentle Giant (even though his height of 6 feet 1 inch may not have quite warranted it), Williams was adept at writing and recording plain-spoken material extolling the virtues of romantic commitment.

Singing in a warm, undulating baritone, Williams made marital fidelity not just appealing but sexy — as exciting, in its way, as the themes of cheating and running around that defined the classic honky-tonk music of the 1950s and ’60s. He also lived it, unlike many super stars who end up with various failed marriages.

Don Williams sang, ‘Till the Rivers All Run Dry’

‘Till the Rivers All Run Dry,’ a No. 1 country single in 1976, was typical of his understated persona and approach. Propelled by a lightly throbbing beat, he pledged his devotion to the love of his life, singing:

Till the rivers all run dry

Till the sun falls from the sky

Till life on earth is through

I’ll be needing you.

Written by Mr. Williams and Wayland Holyfield, the song was also on the album “Rough Mix,” recorded later that year by Mr. Townshend, of the Who, and his fellow British rocker Ronnie Lane, of the Faces.


“I Believe in You,” a gently cantering ballad in a similarly intimate vein written by Roger Cook and Sam Hogin, spent two weeks at the top of the country chart and crossed over to the pop Top 40 in 1980. In the song’s chorus, after cataloging a series of ephemera in which he professed little or no faith, Williams, with unabashed sincerity, that cold be felt in he energy in his vocals sang:

But I believe in love

I believe in babies

I believe in Mom and Dad

And I believe in you.

His unfussy aesthetic — at once simple and, in its elemental way, profound — would go on to influence, among others, the country singer-songwriters Alan Jackson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Brad Paisley and Kathy Mattea.

Williams’s success as an artist was likewise attributable to the accessibility and stylistic reach of his music. Many will never forget the gift of Gentle Giant to the world, as his many songs express the innocence and sincerity of true love.

In a 1995 interview with the British magazine Country Music International, late Williams said, “When I was growing up, I used to listen to Ray Price, Johnny Cash and Jim Reeves.”

“At the same time, I’d also listen to Teresa Brewer, the Ink Spots and the Platters. Then, when Bill Haley, Little Richard and all that started happening, I think a lot of us made a transition then without realizing it.”

He was born Don Williams on May 27, 1939, in the rural north Texas community of Floydada. His father was a mechanic who moved the family often in search of a better life.

Finally, they settled in Portland, Texas, near Corpus Christi on the Gulf Coast, where Mr. Williams graduated from high school in 1958.

He first sang in public at age 3 and performed in country, rock and folk bands as a teenager. His mother taught him to play guitar.

In 1964, after serving in the Army, he formed the Pozo-Seco Singers, a folk-pop trio, with Susan Taylor and Lofton Cline, in Corpus Christi. The group recorded several albums for Columbia Records, and two of its singles reached the pop Top 40.

The trio split up in 1969, after which Mr. Williams held several jobs outside the music business before moving to Nashville in the early 1970s. Music would never leave him alone. Then he signed a contract with Jack Music, the publishing company operated by the producer Cowboy Jack Clement.

Mr. Williams released more than 40 albums in his career, on MCA, Capitol, RCA and other labels. He also appeared in two movies, “W. W. and the Dixie Dancekings” (1975) and “Smokey and the Bandit II” (1980). He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

Williams is survived by his wife of 57 years, the former Joy Bucher, their two sons, Gary and Timmy, and four grandchildren.

Williams announced his retirement last year, saying in a statement that it was “time to hang my hat up and enjoy some quiet time at home.” A tribute album, “Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams,” including performances by Lady Antebellum and Garth Brooks, was released this year.

Williams cultivated strong fan support in India and Latin America and was one of the few country stars to tour in Africa. In 1997 he released a DVD, “Into Africa,” recorded live in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Country music lovers all over the world will sorely miss Don Williams, a true Gentle Giant, a preacher of undying love. Rest in peace, Don Williams!

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