Don Williams dead: ‘Gentle giant’ of country music dies aged 78

Don Williams talks to press in a London hotel room, 1979: Getty
Don Williams talks to press in a London hotel room, 1979: Getty

Don Williams, known as the “gentle giant of country music”, has died aged 78.

The US artist began his solo career in 1971 and enjoyed 17 number one country hits in the USA. His music – songs such as “Tulsa Time” and “Gypsy Woman” – were covered by singers including Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton.

He died following a short illness at his home in Alabama.

“Don Williams offered calm, beauty, and a sense of wistful peace that is in short supply these days,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, in a statement issued on Friday.

“His music will forever be a balm in troublesome times.”

Another country star, Troy Gentry, also died on Friday in a helicopter crash, a death that has shocked country music artists and their fans.

“It is with great sadness that we confirm that Troy Gentry, half of the popular country duo, Montgomery Gentry, was tragically killed in a helicopter crash which took place at approximately 1pm today in Medford, New Jersey,” a statement of the band’s website said.

Troy Gentry, aged 50, was due to perform in Medford, New Jersey, on Friday evening.

The helicopter’s pilot also died in the incident, but the reasons for the crash remain unclear. The country duo, who were brothers, formed in 1999 and had released eight studio albums.

Sheryl Crow was among those who paid tribute to Gentry on social media, while Grammy award-winning singer Brad Paisley tweeted that he was “heartbroken and in disbelief” at the news of Gentry’s death.