Country Music Hall of Fame Member Don Williams, known lovingly as the “Gentle Giant,” has died at age 78.
Rolling Stone reports:
Don Williams, the Country Music Hall of Fame member whose imposing height and warm, reassuring voice earned him the nickname “Gentle Giant,” died Friday, September 8th, after a short illness. An internationally popular country star, Williams recorded dozens of hit songs, including “Tulsa Time,” “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good” and “It Must Be Love.” He was 78.
“In giving voice to songs like ‘Good Ole Boys Like Me,’ ‘Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good’ and ‘Amanda,’ Don Williams offered calm, beauty, and a sense of wistful peace that is in short supply these days,” Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young said in a statement Friday. “His music will forever be a balm in troublesome times. Everyone who makes country music with grace, intelligence, and ageless intent will do so while standing on the shoulders of this gentle giant.”
Don Williams was featured among Country Universe’s 100 Greatest Men in 2012:
As soft-spoken off the record as on, Don Williams became known as the Gentle Giant, as he quietly racked up dozens of hits over the course of two decades.
The native Texan played guitar from a young age, and dabbled in many different genres while searching for his own definitive style. His first professional break was as a member of the pop group the Pozo-Seco Singers in the mid-sixties. The group had a handful of minor hits before disbanding in 1971.
Williams moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting, but eventually emerged as a solo artist. He first recorded for JMI Records, but broke through on ABC/Dot, scoring several top ten hits, including many #1 singles. His most notable hits in the seventies included “Tulsa Time” and “It Must Be Love.” He switched to the MCA roster when it acquired ABC/Dot as its own.
Despite his humble nature, the industry took notice of his talents, awarding him the CMA Male Vocalist trophy in 1979. By that time, he was an international star, becoming a major presence in the European market while also racking up hits at home. Recording for MCA in the eighties, the big hits continued, with his signature song, “I Believe in You”, pushing the album of the same name to platinum sales and another CMA trophy, this time for Album of the Year.
Williams continued to record for major labels after leaving MCA in 1986. He scored his final #1 single for Capitol the same year, “Heartbeat in the Darkness.” A stint with RCA brought him critical acclaim. His 1991 album, True Love, produced a trio of top ten hits, but its follow-up, Currents, received no support at radio and failed to crack the album chart, in spite of excellent reviews.
His recording and touring both slowed down after he left the major label world, but he continued to put out albums sporadically. He even did a farewell tour in 2006, which was intended to mark his retirement. Thankfully for fans, 2012 has brought an artistic resurgence for Williams, as his new album for Sugar Hill Records, And So it Goes, features appearances from Alison Krauss and Vince Gill. An international tour is underway in support of the record.
His humble nature was clearly on display when he accepted his CMA Male Vocalist award in 1978:
Williams had 45 top ten hits during his long career, including 17 #1 singles. Here are some of the highlights of his deep catalog:
“I Wouldn’t Want to Live if You Didn’t Love Me”
“You’re My Best Friend”
“‘Till the Rivers All Run Dry”
“It Must Be Love”
“I Believe in You”
“Lord, I Hope This Day is Good”
“If I Needed You” (with Emmylou Harris)
“I Just Come Here For the Music” (with Alison Krauss)