On Friday his publicist confirmed Williams, who was known as “the Gentle Giant” because of his easygoing temperament, died after a short illness.
Williams had 17 number ones in the US and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010, before he retired in 2016. Williams was known for his rich voice, gentle delivery and storytelling style. He toured sparingly, did few media interviews and spent much of his time on his farm west of Nashville.
His career started as a musician in Portland, a city he moved to from his native Texas, where he was born in 1939. He moved to Nashville in the late 60s and wrote songs for some of country’s biggest names, including “Cowboy” Jack Clement.
His hits included I Believe in You, Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good, You’re My Best Friend, Some Broken Hearts Never Mend, and Till the Rivers All Run Dry. Eric Clapton recorded his We’re More Than Friends and Pete Townshend redid his Til the Rivers All Run Dry.
“Don Williams offered calm, beauty, and a sense of wistful peace that is in short supply these days,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, in a statement Friday. “His music will forever be a balm in troublesome times.”
He missed his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010 because he had bronchitis. His last studio album came out in 2014 and he was the subject of a tribute album this year that included performances of his hits by Lady Antebellum, Garth Brooks and Chris Stapleton.