Don Williams, “You’re My Best Friend”


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His baritone voice and laid-back delivery have been the hallmarks of Don Williams’ long career in country music. But maybe more important than those things has been Williams’ ability to pick songs that fit who he is as a person and an artist, and that appeal to the listener on deeply human terms. Usually written by writers other than himself, those songs have sent him to the top of the singles charts again and again. Though he had some success as a member of the Pozo-Seco Singers in the 1960s, one of the songs that really started it all for him in Nashville as a solo artist was his second number one in 1975, “You’re My Best Friend.”

From the album of the same name, “You’re My Best Friend” was written by Wayland Holyfield, who would go on to pen more big songs for Williams and others. The single reached number one on both the U.S. and Canadian country charts and was Holyfield’s first number one as the sole writer of a song. Many writers – many people in general, for that matter – don’t have the ability to communicate feelings and emotions in a way that can really touch another person’s heart. 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.

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.

Read the lyrics. 

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