Don Williams, Country Hall of Famer, dies at 78

Don Williams grew up in Texas and worked in the oil fields and even as a bill collector as he started his music career

Don Williams, Country Hall of Famer, dies at 78

Don Williams, who began a long career in country music as a Nashville songwriter in the early 1970s and who entered the Country Hall of Fame in 2010, died today following a short illness at his home in Alabama, a publicist confirmed to NPR.

He's survived by his wife Joy, whom he married in 1960, and their two sons Gary and Timmy.

He won the Country Music Association's awards for best male vocalist and best single for "Tulsa Time" in 1978.

His hit "I wouldn't Want To Live If You Didn't Love Me" topped charts the following year.

His final release in his life time was a live CD/DVD recording from Ireland, which was released a year ago.

Over the course of his four-decade solo career, Williams recorded numerous songs now regarded as classics, including "Good Ole Boys Like Me", "Tulsa Time", "I Believe in You", "Lord, I Hope This Day is Good" and "It Must Be Love". The next year would see Williams ink a recording deal with Clement's JMI Records.

Williams developed an worldwide fan base with followers in England, Ireland, South Africa and Kenya.

He went on to score his biggest hit in 1981 with "I Believe in You", which made it all the way to #24 on the pop chart. It was the first of 17 chart-toppers that Williams racked up, the last of which was 1986's "Heartbeat in the Darkness", although he continued to place in the top 10 through 1991. Don Williams was a legend, and for good reason. He then officially retired in 2016.

Williams earned the nickname "The Gentle Giant" in the early 1980s thanks to a combination of his tall frame, deep voice and mellow music. After befriending Burt Reynolds, he had a small part in 1980's Smokey and the Bandit II alongside other country stars Mel Tillis and the Statler Brothers. "I am so thankful for my fans, my friends and my family for their everlasting love and support". In 2017, the singer was the subject of a tribute album, Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams, that included performances of his hits by artists such as Lady Antebellum and Garth Brooks.

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