His baritone voice and laid-back delivery have defined Don Williams’ long career in country music. But perhaps more important than those factors has been Williams’ ability to select songs that reflect who he is as a person and an artist and speak to the listener on deeply human levels.
Usually written by others, those songs have propelled him to the top of the singles charts time and again. Though he had some success as a member of the Pozo-Seco Singers in the 1960s, “You’re My Best Friend,” his second number one in 1975, was the song that started it all for him in Nashville as a solo artist.
“You’re My Best Friend” was written by Wayland Holyfield for the album of the same name, and he would go on to write more big songs for Williams and others. The single charted at number one in both the United States and Canada, and it was Holyfield’s first number one as the sole writer of a song. Many writers, and many people in general, cannot communicate feelings and emotions in a way that can truly touch another person’s heart.
My dear sweet husband passed away last month and this was our favorite song. He was my soul mate for 33 years, my rock and my once in a lifetime love. He was one of the kindest, generous and loving people anyone could ever meet. He passed away suddenly and unexpectedly and my heart feels so empty without him. Love you always and forever my darling Herb.
Williams’ hits over the years have primarily been just those types of songs, though, and Holyfield has shown himself to be that kind of writer time and again. In a 2014 interview on the ASCAP Songwriter’s Show on Nashville’s WSM-AM radio, Holyfield told then-host Ryan Beuschel that “You’re My Best Friend” was written about his wife. “Nancy’s still my best friend,” he said. “If you have a successful marriage, your spouse is usually your best friend … the closest one you’ll ever have.
It was about her, and I played it for Don … I just played it with a guitar and he said, ‘Yeah,’ and recorded it.”
Holyfield put a simple, genuine sentiment of love for his wife into a lyric that, while maudlin or even distasteful to haters of popular music, ended up being two minutes and forty-two seconds of pure gold.
With the chorus You’re my bread when I’m hungry/ You’re my shelter from troubled winds/ You’re my anchor in life’s ocean/ But most of all you’re my best friend, Holyfield said exactly what was on his heart without reservation or embarrassment, and in doing so helped Williams find a worldwide audience that is still loyal to him more than 40 years later.
We played this song at my dads gravesite service, he and my mom were married just 3 days short of 50 years when he passed. I remember them dancing in the living room so many times and him singing it to her. At the funeral mom just kept asking if they would play it again. so we did, we played it again, and again, as many times as she wanted. Will never forget their deep love, and how this song expressed it so well. I Love you daddy – But you went away, and I miss you. I will never get over you.
Williams announced his retirement last week, and while it was the second such announcement (he retired in 2006 but came back a few years later), this time it sounds like it’s final. He’s in the last half of his seventh decade on this earth, and has enjoyed success for about six of those decades without ever having to be anyone but Don Williams. He’s a great example of an artist who puts the song first, believing that it will find a home with someone who will embrace and appreciate it. And he’s a prime example of how an artist can be true to who he or she is without compromising and still find great success.