Kim Williams (Photo: Sheri O'Neal)
Juli Thanki, email@example.com 10:43 a.m. CST February 12, 2016
Kim Williams 1947-2016
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Kim Williams, who co-wrote hits like Randy Travis’ “Three Wooden Crosses,” Joe Diffie’s “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets),” Reba's "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" and Garth Brooks’ “Papa Loved Mama,” died Thursday night. He was 68 years old. Friday morning, legendary songwriter Bobby Braddock posted on his Facebook page that Mr. Williams was “perhaps the most amazing man who ever walked the streets of Music Row.”
Kim Edwin Williams was born June 28, 1947 in Kingsport, Tenn. He grew up in a musical family and learned how to play guitar as a boy. In 1974, Mr. Williams' life was forever changed: he was working at a glass plant in Johnson City when he was caught in a fire. He was severely burned over much of his body. Over the next decade he had 200 surgeries. During his lengthy and painful rehabilitation process, which included treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Mr. Williams decided to pursue a career as a songwriter. He began taking songwriting classes and pitching his lyrics, and in 1989, he became a staff songwriter for Tree International.
In his book “A Life on Nashville’s Music Row,” Braddock wrote, “Kim Williams had the best work ethic of any songwriter I’ve ever known, often scheduling co-writing sessions with four different people in a single day.” That strong work ethic would result in a string of hit songs recorded by some of country music's biggest stars.
His first major success came in 1991 when Joe Diffie took "If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)," a song Mr. Williams wrote with Ken Spooner, to the top of the charts. Mr. Williams’ life would be changed again when he began working with a young country artist named Garth Brooks, who'd become one of the biggest artists of the 1990s. He co-wrote several of Brooks’ hits, including “Papa Loved Mama,” “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)” and “She’s Gonna Make It.” One of Mr. Williams' most enduring songs will likely be the story song "Three Wooden Crosses," which he wrote with Doug Johnson. Randy Travis took the song to the top of the charts in 2003; later that year it won Song of the Year honors at the CMA Awards.
In addition to his work ethic, Mr. Williams was known for his positive attitude and love of collaboration with fellow writers. In 2012, when he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame alongside Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tony Arata and Larry Henley, he told The Tennessean’s Peter Cooper, "I'm more of co-writer. It's more of a joy for me. And if you win something or have a hit, you have someone to share it with."
Mr. Williams is survived by his wife Phyllis and daughter Amanda. Funeral arrangements are unknown at this time.