It starts off leisurely and quietly and stays that way when Don Williams sings “I Believe In You”. The man with possibly the most pleasant voice of all country singers reached number 1 in the Billboard country charts with this sensitive-sounding song on October 18, 1980, and remained at the top for another week, something he never managed with any of his 17 other top hits. It was also very special that I Believe In You remained Don Williams’ only visit to the Billboard Hot 100, it was enough for 24.
The song was – to put it loosely – a difficult birth. Songwriter Roger Cook wrote it in 1979 and then shelved it because he wasn’t happy with the lyrics. So he enlisted the help of his colleague Sam Hogin. The two of them sat together for nights on end until they were finally satisfied with the result.
When Don Williams was asked to record the song, he liked the melody and the instrumentation of the demo version but didn’t agree with some of the lyrics. They had to rhyme and discuss again until everyone involved had agreed on the final version. Lines such as “I believe in Rock’n’Roll”, “Sometimes I don’t give a damn” and “The rising costs of getting high” were dropped.
It becomes clear that “I Believe In You” is not just a harmless love song. Of course, Don Williams sings that he believes in love and in his beloved, but what is more interesting is what he doesn’t believe in. Thematically, this is a collection of political, social, and economic issues that are addressed.
He doesn’t believe in organic food, foreign cars, that the right is always right and the left isn’t, or that it’s always good to be the best. But religiosity is also questioned: he does not believe that only those who belong to the church go to heaven, but rather that God is everywhere and watches over everyone.
The efforts of the singer and songwriters were rewarded. Not only with the top ranking of the single, the album of the same name became Don Williams’ second gold album and was voted the best country album of 1980. When I listen to his songs today, I always realize what a great loss his death at the age of 78 on September 8, 2017, is for country music and for Don Williams’ fans.