While a lot of classic country singers' voices are judged positively for their similarity to Jimmie Rodgers, Ernest Tubb or Waylon Jennings, the late Don Williams simply sounds like Don Williams. The stocky Texas native, known for years as the Gentle Giant, added to the list of definitive vocalists with his smooth bass-baritone delivery.
Even with his old-fashioned values, Williams made country hits that were relevant in their time. Indeed, he racked up quite a few CMA — including 1978's Male Vocalist of the Year — and ACM awards for his impact on the pop and country charts.
It's not easy to narrow down a Country Music Hall of Fame member's 17 chart-toppers and numerous other memorable songs to a playlist of his 10 greatest hits. Think of these subjective picks as evidence that Williams was the proverbial good guy in a white hat, riding in country music's increasingly cutthroat and pop-friendly rodeo.
10. "Rake and Ramblin' Man"
Edgy by Williams' standards, this partially-narrated tale about a free spirit tells of a man with enough common sense to know that he wouldn't make a reliable father. It's one of several Williams classics penned by Bob McDill.
9. "Til The Rivers All Run Dry"
At a time when many of popular music's best singers and songwriters shone as acoustic-based performers, Williams wowed listeners with this sentimental co-write with Wayland Holyfield.
8. "You're My Best Friend"
Early in his solo run (which followed a stint in Texas folk trio the Pozo-Seco Singers), Williams sang this love song about an anchor in life's ocean that could be a spiritual analogy, aside from the opening verse's mention of a wedding band.
7. "Good Ole Boys Like Me"
This song about growing older considers the ageless value of those other trusty Williams boys — Hank and Tennessee.
6. "I'm Just a Country Boy"
Only John Denver shouted louder, prouder pronouncements of his down-home credibility. For a similar sentiment, also check out Williams' final Top 10 entry, "Lord Have Mercy on a Country Boy."
5. "If I Needed You" (with Emmylou Harris)
Williams helped breathe mainstream life into one of Townes Van Zandt's best songs with this duet from Emmylou Harris' 1981 album Cimarron.
4. "Tulsa Time"
Williams made a resounding impact on the future of country music's overlap with classic rock via this 1978 single that's also synonymous with Eric Clapton.
3. "It Must Be Love"
In 1979, Williams took this McDill original to the top of the country charts. Twenty-one years later, obvious Williams superfan Alan Jackson made it a two-time No. 1.
2. "I Believe In You"
Williams' home-spun image suited the big time when this chart-topping country song became his lone Top 25 pop single.
1. "Lord I Hope This Day Is Good"
The concept of finding contentment in life yet still praying for a few more earthly blessings still speaks to country audiences through the music of the various modern acts that grew up hearing Williams' albums.
Honorable mention Don Williams songs: "Amanda," "Listen to the Radio," "Love Me Over Again," "(Turn Out the Light and) Love Me Tonight," "If Hollywood Don't Need You," "Lay Down Beside Me," "Come Early Morning," "Just as Long as I Have You," "Some Broken Hearts Never Mend," "We Should Be Together," "Say It Again," "I've Got a Winner in You" and John Prine co-write "Love is on a Roll"
This story first ran in 2018.