Mentor Williams, Writer of Dobie Gray's 'Drift Away,' Dies at 70

Billboard

Country songwriter Mentor Williams, best known for penning Dobie Gray's 1973 No. 5 smash "Drift Away," has died at age 70. Williams' death was reported by the Taos News, which said that a family member confirmed that the writer of songs by Alabama, Jackie DeShannon and The Ventures passed away from undisclosed causes at 6:15 a.m. on Wednesday (Nov. 16). 

The brother of singer/songwriter/actor and ASCAP President Paul Williams was also known for co-writing such tunes as Randy Travis and George Jones' "A Few Ole Country Boys" in 1990, and Alabama's 1984 hit "When We Make Love." His best-known song by far, however, was Gray's "Drift Away," which has been covered by everyone from Waylon Jennings to Rod Stewart, Michael Bolton, Ray Charles and Roy Orbison -- as well as Uncle Kracker, who returned the song to the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2003 with his No. 9-peaking, Gray-assisted cover. 

Paul Williams posted a series of tweets in honor of his sibling on Wednesday.

My brother... ❤️---- pic.twitter.com/t7yPWxWA7G

- Paul Williams (@IMPaulWilliams) November 16, 2016

Kindness from the home team. Thank you @ascap. Mentor was a proud and grateful member. He will be so missed. https://t.co/wIbC98MeJ8

- Paul Williams (@IMPaulWilliams) November 16, 2016

Love the painting send your message Jodi. ❤️ Thank you, Paul https://t.co/md5IdqY3B2

- Paul Williams (@IMPaulWilliams) November 17, 2016

Taos News reported that Williams received an ASCAP award for this three decades of songwriting. In 2014, Paul Williams wrote an essay in honor of his brother's work as the writer and producer on "Drift Away," as part of ASCAP's 100 songs of the century list.

"'Drift Away' was written by my younger brother, Mentor Williams. In the early '70s, trying to find his way around the music business in L.A., he made what was then a very bold move and headed for Nashville," the ASCAP boss wrote.

"He'd become friendly with Dobie Gray, who hadn't had a hit since his much earlier recording of 'In Crowd' -- a terrific singer who was being treated by the industry as yesterday's news. Mentor took Dobie with him to Nashville, walked into Quadrafonic Studios on Music Row and put together a group of brilliant musicians to record a new Dobie Gray album. Almost all of the songs were Mentor's.

"The label wasn't impressed with the blend of country and rock and had to be coerced into releasing the first single. Mentor begged them to trust his judgment. They did, and the world was treated to a rock 'n' roll anthem that will be playing when all of us are long gone. At the very top of my 'I wish I'd written that one' list is my brother's glorious song. 'Give me the beat boys and free my soul / I wanna get lost in your rock and roll / And drift away!' … Takes me to a place of pure love and pride. Bravo, Mentor. The folks would be proud, too."

Williams worked with, recorded and produced a number of other artists, including Paul McCartney, Kim Carnes and his brother, and served as a staff writer at Almo-Irving in the 1960s. He was also a producer for the A&M, MCA and Columbia Records labels.