For many country fans, the way you would deal with the death of a close friend or a loved one would be to put a Don Williams record on. So what are you supposed to do when Don Williams is the one who has died? It’s also customary when one of your favorite music artist passes away to put on their music and reminisce. But again, with Don Williams, it almost makes it worse, knowing that iconic voice will never be heard again live on this mortal coil.
Let’s face it, there were bigger stars in country music than Don Williams. This is not to be impolite. When Merle Haggard or George Jones died, these were undeniably top tier Mount Rushmore “greatest of all time” names that you never recover from losing. Their deaths were a time of national mourning, even for people who were not necessarily fans of country music. That doesn’t mean that Don Williams wasn’t many people’s most favorite star, even if he didn’t amass the staggering amount of #1 hits as some others, or perhaps had the deeper influence throughout American culture like a Merle Haggard or George Jones.
But there was just something, or many things about Don Williams—his voice, his music, his soothing presence—that make his death so much harder to stomach, even days after the news has sunk in. It’s astounding as you witness people reflect back on his music and mourn, how many mention his name and tie it to their family. It’s a Don Williams song that reminds you of your dad or granddad that is no longer around. It was his soothing voice that helped put your kids to bed at an early age. It was one of the first songs you every heard, or one of the last songs you remember hearing with someone else. The memories of many other country greats are tied to us in distinct ways. But the songs of Don Williams, they are what tie us to someone else, and to one another.
The memories are so rich and the voice is so familiar, it’s like Don Williams is part of your family.
I dare you to find someone who has a discouraging word to utter about Don Williams. He didn’t have a checkered past of any sort. He never let his fans down. He never became a polarizing character in any way where someone would find themselves sideways with his music or his legacy, even in this polarizing era we live in today. And even though he was never the universally-recognized biggest star in country for any particular year, his longevity was such (he had Top 5 hits spanning from 1974-1991) that his influence was cross-generational, and his music was of a nature that everyone could listen together and enjoy. He was cool, to everyone who knew him.
Don Williams no longer being around is still not okay. And unfortunately, Don Williams is no longer around to help us get over the death of Don Williams. Because that’s what Don Williams is supposed to do.