Don Williams embodied a classic country simplicity that will never be repeated in our time.
On this day in country music circa 1980, Don was making waves with hit song, “I Believe In You.” And even though there will never be another Don Williams, this particular song has never been more relevant than today.
The track contrasts the world’s focus and the narrator’s, only to find that society has gotten everything mixed up. Instead, the simplicity of life should remain the focal point. Don Williams sings the famous chorus of things he chooses to believe in like love, old folks, music and the repeating line, “you and me.”
Roger Cook, the co-writer of the track referred to it as an “honest” song with “simple” lyrics. In an interview with The Tennessean, Roger shared some behind-the-scenes thoughts on the song:
“The really simple songs are tough to write… we’re trained in the way through our careers to look for something really different. And try to come up with an angle. Something just catchy and different. But now and again you do sit down, you write just a God honest song, and with simple lyrics.”
Roger went on to share in the interview that the simplistic nature of the song is what made it perfect for Don Williams to begin with:
“We made a really good demo of it. And, about two or three days later, Garth called me one day, Garth Fundis, who was producing Don.
He said, “If you got anything for Don, we’re going in the studio. We could use a song or two.” I said, “I’ve just written a song.” I said, “I can hear Don singing it.” He said, “I’ll come straight over.””
“And we put it down, and about halfway through Garth said, “Don would have a huge hit with that, you know.” I said, “Well, go for it Garth.”
“Don never changed one lick of my demo production. They liked the whole demo, the guitar licks, everything. In fact, they got my demo guitarist to come in and play the guitar on the session, because they didn’t want to change one lick.”
In the end, Roger Cook and Sam Hogin were right in their instincts to keep the writing on the track straight-forward. The song was Don’s 11th number one and stayed on the charts for upwards of 10 weeks.
It was the kind of song, and still is the kind of song, that screams relatability. And Don always evoked emotion when singing it, slowing down the tempo of live performances and leaving the crowd pondering what life is all about.
If this sounds like 21st century America to you, you should hear the rest of the song and Don Williams’ voice on it. Not many songs have the power to just state the facts and leave the listener feeling contemplative and empathetic, but this one has all the right ingredients to do just that.