Donald Ray Williams (May 27, 1939—September 8, 2017) was an American Country Music singer with a career spanning from the 1960s to The New '10s. He started out as a member of the Pozo-Seco Singers, a folk quartet that had a handful of hits on the pop charts.
Williams signed with JMI Records as a solo artist in 1972 and scored a few hits, but achieved his breakthrough in 1974 with "I Wouldn't Want to Live If You Didn't Love Me" on ABC/Dot. He stayed with Dot until it was bought out by MCA, and later recorded for various other labels. He scored 17 #1 hits on the country charts throughout the 1970s and '80s, and even had a few hits into the early '90s. He had been semi-retired since about 1992, but continued to record sporadically up until his death.
Williams's material was characterized by his soft singing voice and lighthearted ballads. He established a longstanding collaboration with acclaimed songwriter Bob McDill, whose literate, but unpretentious, lyrics suited Williams's voice perfectly. His most successful crossover hit is "I Believe in You" in 1980, which went to #24 on the pop charts. His 1979 hit "Tulsa Time," as close as his material ever got to classic/southern rock, would be covered a year later by Eric Clapton, while another 1979 Williams' hit, "It Must Be Love," was covered by Alan Jackson in 2000.
Tropes present in his work:
- B-Side: One of Don's earliest country hits was 1973's "Come Early Morning"/"Amanda," for which radio stations played both sides.note Despite only reaching No. 12 on the country chart, the song was one of the biggest hits of the year thanks to an extended chart run and popularity — from mid-May to early October — that rotated from radio station to radio station, region to region and record store to record store ... it was never massively popular all at once, but the big picture showed it was one of 1973's biggest hits despite its relatively modest chart finish.
- Chronological Album Title: His first three albums were called Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3.
- The City vs. the Country: "Lord Have Mercy on a Country Boy" finds the country boy mourning the loss of his childhood hangouts to suburban growth.
- Dying Town: The subject of "Old Coyote Town".
- Gentle Giant: He was nicknamed the "gentle giant" for the contrast between his imposing height and soft gentle singing voice.
- Good Ol' Boy: "Good Ole Boys Like Me" is about one who feels out of place in society.
- Hot Gypsy Woman: "I Recall a Gypsy Woman".
- List Song:
- "I Believe in You" is a list of things that the singer does not believe in, capped off with his lover as one of the things he does. (Incidentally, the original song lyrics were really a list of things he didn't believe in, such as "the rising cost of getting high." At Williams' behest, the lyrics were modified, such as in the example "the rising cost of getting by.")
- "Good Ole Boys Like Me" tosses out a bunch of names of people who were part of the youth of a Southern Baby Boomer, like Hank Williams, Tennessee Williams, Thomas Wolfe, Uncle Remus, Gen. Stonewall Jackson, Wolfman Jack, and John R., a legendary Nashville DJ.
- The Power of Love: "Then It's Love" is about how love can't be defined in concrete terms, but rather, by "how it makes you feel" ("Well, if it knocks you off your feet, then it's love…"). "True Love" from 1991 is a more sincere take on the same approach, comparing love to Adam and Eve or "Love Me Tender".
- Refrain from Assuming: He may "believe in love" but the song is called "I Believe in You".
- Rhyming with Itself: "Tulsa Time" rhymes "time" with "time" repeatedly.
- Self-Demonstrating Song: "Tulsa Time" is a prime example of a "Tulsa sound" song.
- With Lyrics: His 1981 hit "Miracles" uses the melody of Antonín Dvořák's "Largo" from the New World Symphony.