It was sad news for country music fans when it was announced legendary artist Don Williams had passed away.
Williams was 78-years-old at the time of his passing, and left behind a career full of hits, awards, and influence. Williams passed on Friday after a short battle with an illness. Williams had remained active, only calling it quits in music last year.
To date, Williams had amassed 17 number-one hits and was a 2010 inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Born in 1939, Williams was raised in Texas. After graduating high school, he served two years in the U.S. Army then worked odd jobs to support himself after his honorable discharge.
Williams earned the nickname “The Gentle Giant” of country music. Known for his baritone voice and smooth sound, he had a unique set him apart from many other artists of the time. He formed the folk-pop group Pozo-Seco Singers, but the group disbanded in 1970. Shortly thereafter, Williams went to work for Jack Clement’s Jack Music Inc. as a songwriter.
His talents were obvious, and it wasn’t long after that that Williams began his career as a solo country artist. His song “We Should Be Together” reached number five on the charts in 1974, and it wasn’t the last time Williams would rank high with his music. During a time of heightened popularity for country music in the UK, Williams had a top forty hit (You’re My Best Friend), a top twenty hit (I Recall a Gypsy Woman) and a #2 album (Images).
These accolades all occurred within the span of a few years, and they kept piling up. In 1978, he won the Academy of Country Music’s ACM Single Record of the Year for Tulsa Time. He also received many nominations for ACM and CMA Top Vocalist of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year throughout the 70s and 80s.
Williams widespread popularity can be heard in the influences he’s had on modern artists in the genre. One of the first to pioneer a mellow and subtle country sound, his notoriety took him even beyond the music industry. He had some acting roles in Burt Reynolds movies, some of which featured him playing numerous songs.
He first teased retirement in 2006 with a farewell tour, but returned in 2010. He released an album, And So It Goes, in 2012. This later addition to his discography would feature guest appearances by fellow country mega-stars Alison Krauss, Keith Urban, and Vince Gill.
He spoke of the price of fame, saying: “It’s one of those blessings and curses kind of things. If you have the talent, it’s a blessing. But there’s times that … a lot of the prices that you have to pay to be a part of it is a curse.” Still, Williams was a personable artist. He often entered a stage with coffee in hand, favored a simple stool, and seemed more than willing to chat with audience members
Plenty of artists across genres and generations mourned his passing, and recalled the immense influence he had on the music industry.