COUNTRY GENTLEMAN (Don Williams, R.I.P.)

I didn’t realize until I went down the YouTube rabbit hole after Don’s death was announced this week just who many of his songs I still knew by heart, or that he had provided the missing link between Jim Reeves and Randy Travis. He’s known to rock audiences (if at all) as a favorite of Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton (who had a hit with a cover of Williams’ best record, which neither he nor anyone else could hope to improve):

But everybody in country knew Don Williams’ worth, both as a songwriter and, especially, a warm, graceful stylist who both carried on and inspired traditions without ever being mistaken for anyone else.

His legacy was an indelible piece of what country used to be, almost in spite of itself….and what it will be no more, no matter how hard it tries.

But don’t let that fool you. In his own time or any other, nobody else wrote songs called “Good Ole Boys Like Me” and meant to invoke a world that assumed Hank and Tennessee Williams came from the same place, let alone carried it off without breaking a sweat. Charlie Daniels and Hank Jr. have their place and their uses. But Don Williams carved a niche for himself by being the Voice of Reason in the face of rage and resentment. The radio was better when he was on it and the world was better when he was in it.

THE GODMOTHER SHINES FORTH (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #117)

I was doing some rudimentary research on Don Williams, the country giant who passed yesterday, and was reminded that he was in the Pozo-Seco Singers, a pop-folk group who stirred up a little dust in the sixties. It was one of those tidbits that I used to know but had forgotten.

What I didn’t know was that Don and company had recorded a nice version of Chip Taylor’s “I Can Make it With You”…

Well that’s one way of doing it and The Hard Times, who were the house band for Where the Action Is, followed right along…

And then there’s the Jackie DeShannon way. If anyone needs proof Jackie’s a genius–and, despite a couple of big hits under her own name and dozens more as a writer, the Lost Voice of a generation she, as the assembler of the essential ethos of both folk rock and the singer-songwriter movement, did more than a little to define–consider this Exhibit A….

I would point especially to what she does with the repeated lineĀ There’s a future for me and understand what it means to interpret a song.

Or, if you prefer, claim it.