Kim Williams, Famed Nashville Songwriter Who Penned Garth Brooks’ Hit ‘Papa Loved Mama,’ Dies At 68

Kim Williams, a famed Nashville songwriter who wrote hits for many top Country stars, including Garth Brooks, and Randy Travis, died on Thursday, February 11. He was 68-years-old.

Kim Williams was born in Kingsport, Tennessee, in 1947. By the age of 11, Williams had already learned how to play guitar, was writing his own songs, and had been in numerous local bands by the time he hit his teen years. According to the Boot, Williams toured the South and Midwest with many of his bands but ultimately left the music business to get married and start a family.

In 1974, while working at a glass plant in Johnson City, Tennessee, Kim Williams was caught in a horrible electrical fire that left his with severe burns over much of his body. For the decade following the accident, Kim spent much of his time undergoing extensive treatment and rehabilitation, including over 200 surgeries, at Music City’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Williams often credited his injuries and subsequent treatment as the reason he eventually returned to the music business.

“I tell people that I got burned out on my last job and decided to become a songwriter. I don’t know if I’d ever have gotten back into music if I hadn’t had that accident.”

During his stays in Nashville for his treatment, Kim Williams took songwriting classes and began pitching his songs to anyone that would listen. In 1989, he became a staff songwriter at Tree International.

In 1991, Williams scored his first major hit when Joe Diffie recorded his “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets),” which hit number one on the charts. While working for Tree International, Kim Williams struck up a friendship with a once-unknown young country singer by the name of Garth Brooks. In 1993, Brooks and Williams hit country gold with Kim’s songs “Ain’t Goin’ Down (Till the Sun Comes Up)” and “Papa Loved Mama.” In 1994, Kim Williams was named ASCAP’s Country Songwriter of the Year.

According to Billbord, other songs written by Kim Williams that were picked up by big name country artists include George Strait’s “Overnight Male,” Brooks & Dunn’s “Honky Tonk Truth,” Reba McEntire’s “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” Kenny Chesney’s “Fall in Love,” and George Jones’ “Beer Run,” but his biggest hit would come in the early 2000s. In 2003, Randy Travis recorded a little song written by Kim Williams called “Three Wooden Crosses.” The song would go on to win Song of the Year at the CMAs, ACMs, and the Nashville Songwriters Association International. It also received top honors at the Gospel Music Association, picking up the Dove Award for Country Song of the Year.

In addition to his songs being honored over the years, in 2012, Kim Williams was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. During his speech at the induction ceremony, it was clear that Williams never allowed the honors bestowed upon him to go to his head, remaining humble and giving throughout his famed and storied career.

“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.”

On Friday, Pat Alger, the chairman of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, released a statement regarding the death of Kim Williams.

“Yesterday the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame lost one of its finest members. Kim Williams overcame more adversity than anyone I know to become one of the best and most colorful songwriters to ever come out of this town. He was my hero and I will miss him so much.”

Kim Williams died on February 11, in Florida. He was 68-years-old. No word on the cause of death has been reported at the time of this writing, nor have any funeral arrangements been announced. Kim Williams is survived by his wife, Phyllis, and his daughter Amanda.

[Photo by Mark Humphrey/AP]