A couple of weeks ago, the music industry lost another amazing talent. Don Williams recently passed and once again I find myself a young boy, riding in my dad’s rusty pickup and bonding with him through country music. Williams was an important part of my musical education and if I try very hard, I can still hear Dad’s voice accompanying him.
By all counts Williams was a hell of a gentlemen and his nickname of the ‘Gentle Giant’ of country music bears this out. His music was covered by many, including Eric Clapton on ‘Tulsa Time’. If the measure of a musician’s career is the impact it has on their peers, then Williams was a success.
For me, always the romantic, Don Williams was at his best when he sang about love. ‘Listen to the Radio’ is still my favorite. It’s about a man that can’t find the right words to tell a woman how much he loves her. So he pleads with her to dance with him and listen to the songs, and understand that is how he feels about her. Williams’ amazing baritone adds the perfect emphasis to every word.
The words I’d say
Don’t seem to sound as real
The songs they play
That’s how I really feel.
Listen to the radio
My other favorite is certainly ‘Boys Like Me’. It talks wistfully about the kind of Southern upbringing that many of us are nostalgic about. In a South that is constantly re-assessing its identity, Williams reminds us of a few of those touchstones for certain generations.
I can still hear the soft southern winds in the live oak trees
And Those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me,
Hank and Tennessee.
I guess we’re all gonna be what we’re gonna be,
So what do you do with good ol’ boys like me?
On ‘I Believe in You’ Williams once again returns to the subject of love. He carefully lists all of the things he believes in, but at the end of each stanza, he reiterates how he believes in her. His voice again adds a certain sincerity that one can only imagine melted a heart or two.
And I’m an ordinary man sometimes I wonder who I am
But I believe in love I believe in music I believe in magic and I believe in you
At 42, I seem to be hitting that age where so many of my heroes are disappearing. It’s bittersweet. I absolutely believe the world is a little less bright with these people gone, but it also gives me a chance to reflect on the things that helped make me the person I am today. Good country music is a big part of that story. Don Williams, you will be missed.
Listen to the Radio
Good Ole Boys Like Me
Believe in You