Legendary country music singer Don Williams died at 78 on Friday after battling a short illness, his rep confirmed to Rolling Stone.
Williams’ hit songs, such as “It Must Be Love,” won him a spot in the Country Music Hall Of Fame. People called the singer the “Gentle Giant” for his melodic voice and the fact that he was over six feet tall.
The Texas native won his first talent contest at the tender age of three and formed a band with his friends as a teenager. Later on, Williams would be part of the Pozo-Seco Singers in 1964 with Susan Taylor and Lofton Cline. The group made it on the Billboard Hot 100 half a dozen times in three years.
Williams later went solo, releasing his first country music single, “Don’t You Believe,” in 1972. The “Gentle Giant” went on to have a robust singing career and became an international ambassador of country music. He performed across the world and had a large fan base in Europe.
His stardom also earned him a few movie roles, including a cameo as himself in 1980′s “Smokey and the Bandit II.” Williams worked with actors such as Burt Reynolds and Sally Field.
Williams went into retirement following a farewell tour in 2004 after releasing over 35 albums. He came back in 2014 for one last record called “Reflections.” His music has been recorded by stars such as Eric Clapton, Lee Ann Womack, Lady Antebellum and Pete Townshend.
“Farewell, the great Don Williams,” tweeted Roseanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, on Friday.
Country music mourned his death, as well that of country star Troy Gentry, who died in a helicopter crash on Friday.