Legendary musician and Country Music Hall of Famer Don Williams has passed away at the age of 78. Williams’ rep confirmed the news in a release, and said that the singer died following a short illness. The exact illness is not known at this time.
Williams spent seven years in the folk-style trio The Pozo Seco Singers, before moving to Nashville in 1970. By 1971, Williams had a songwriting contract with the the publishing company owned by Jack Clement. The next year, Williams signed a recording deal with Clement’s JMI Records.
In 1973, Williams made his chart debut with “The Shelter of Your Eyes” and had his first chart-topper with 1974’s “I Wouldn’t Want To Live If You Didn’t Love Me.” From then until 1991, every one of Williams’ singles hit the Top-40 on the Billboard charts. Williams went on to have 17 Number One singles in his career.
Williams was named Male Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1978.
Williams, whose nickname became “The Gentle Giant” also stared in 1974’s W.W. and The Dixie Dancekings, and 1980’s Smokey and the Bandit II.
Williams recorded his biggest hit with 1981’s “I Believe In You.” The song topped the Country charts, but also crossed over and reached No. 24 on the Hot 100.
Williams was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010. He released And So It Goes in 2012 and Reflections in 2014. The albums included contributions from Alison Krauss, Keith Urban and Vince Gill. Both albums hit the Top-20 on the Billboard Country Album charts.
In 2016, Williams was hit with a series of health issues. He postponed his tour to have hip replacement surgery. He ultimately canceled the tour and announced his retirement from live performances in March.
In 2017, Williams was the subject of a tribute album, Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams, that included performances of his hits by artists like Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, Chris Stapleton, Allison Krauss and Trisha Yearwood.