Country Music Industry Suffers Two Major Losses

These musicians were respected and loved in the genre — now both men are gone too soon

Two country stars were confirmed to have passed away on Friday.

The first was 78-year-old Don Williams, known to fans and fellow country musicians as “the Gentle Giant” for the low-key but powerful style he perfected in the 1970s.

Williams’ publicity team sent a statement to the press confirming the singer’s death after “a short illness.”

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As if the passing of Williams weren’t enough of a loss to country music, Troy Gentry also passed away — at only 50 years old.

“It is with great sadness that we confirm that Troy Gentry, half of the popular country duo, Montgomery Gentry, was tragically killed in a helicopter crash which took place at approximately 1:00 p.m. today in Medford, New Jersey,” the band said in a statement posted to its official website.

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Gentry had been scheduled to perform with his music partner, Eddie Montgomery, on Friday night.

Both musicians were well-established in their genre, but they leave this world at very different times in their careers.

Williams was a legend at the tail end of an unforgettable career. He first gained attention in the 1960s as part of The Pozo-Seco Singers band.

The Texas-born singer soon made his way to Nashville and began belting out such hits as “We Should Be Together.” He was arguably one of the most influential country musicians ever. He was the subject of a tribute album just this year called “Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams,” which included the work of popular musicians like Garth Brooks and Lady Antebellum.

“He never let himself stray from what he felt about music … That’s where the consistency comes from.”

“He never let himself stray from what he felt about music. I think that’s where the consistency comes from. It had to work for him in a simple way. Sometimes, we do orchestrations and get a lot of instruments going, but it was usually pretty simple,” said Garth Fundis, as Billboard reported. Fundis produced many Williams hits and oversaw production of the tribute album. “He always was the rudder that kept the bow pointed in the right direction, to use a sailing term. It was wonderful how he [Williams] could always take different kinds of songs, and by the time he was done with them, they all kind of fit together in a really wonderful way.”

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Williams held his final performance in 2016. According to People, he said it was time to “hang up his hat and enjoy some quiet time at home.”

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He added, “I’m so thankful for my fans, my friends and my family for their everlasting love and support.” Williams is survived by two sons and his wife of 57 years. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

On the other side of the coin is Troy Gentry, lost far too soon to a tragic helicopter crash. At just 50, Gentry, along with his bandmate, still had many miles to go in their careers. The Kentucky-based duo got together in the late ’90s, and it was off to the races for them almost immediately. They are two of country’s most recognizable stars, with such hits under their belts as “Something to Be Proud Of” and “Lucky Man,” which won them a Grammy in 2008. The duo was also inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2009.

Gentry is survived by his wife of nearly 18 years and his two daughters.

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Members of the country music industry have been grieving the loss of Gentry on social media:

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Country music stars were equally shaken by Williams’ passing.

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Others rightfully recognized what a tragic day it was for the industry overall.

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If there’s one thing the passing of these two men can tell us about the profession to which they dedicated their lives, it’s that country music is built on a foundation of community, support and love — all of which can be found in spades in the wake of two enormous losses in the industry.

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