Hank and Tennessee… But especially Don

When I was in my mid-20’s I was looking through the used section at CD Exchange, an old store on Northgate that used to sell new and used CD’s. I stumbled across “Don Williams Greatest Hits”. Williams was a singer who had been one of my mom’s favorites when I was a child. I was a long-haired grunge metal fan when I found that CD, probably looking for some Pearl Jam or Nirvana bootleg, but something about that old country album reminded me of my childhood, and I had to buy it.

I got home, put it on my stereo, and I was instantly transported back to my youth. Out of my speakers came a voice that soothed me, made me nostalgic, and gave me a sense of warmth and peace. I also knew everyword. I had no idea that I’d remember every word when I bought the album, but as soon as each new song came on, I could remember the lyrics the way one might remember Christmas carols or church hymns. I didn’t know when I learned them, but I suddenly couldn’t remember ever not knowing those lyrics.

Williams’ voice sounds like the most masculine, manly voice you’ll ever hear while still sounding like the most loving, gentle soul you could ever meet. But in a way, that’s no surprise because Don Williams was Southern to the core, and I think that’s what the ideal Southern Gentleman aspires to – gentle, loving and tough masculinity.

Williams’ voice is the sound of my childhood. I can picture my mom and dad slow dancing in the living room or cuddling on the couch while his music filled our home. The love that he sang he about in love songs sounded like the way my dad looked at my mom.

When he sang lyrics like “what do you do, with good ole boys like me,” it felt like he was describing my father, my grandfather, the men I admired growing up, and the man I’m still trying to be.

On the morning of every triathlon, open-water swim, marathon, or important swim meet I’ve ever been a part of, I’ve always found a quiet time to put on some headphones and listen to his song “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good”. That song always calms my nerves, helps me focus, and puts whatever I’m afraid of into perspective for me.

In high school, I used to believe that Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” was the most beautiful song ever recorded. But when I rediscovered “I Believe In You” in my 20’s, Mr. Armstrong was respectfully dethroned. “I Believe In You” is perfection – vocals, musicianship, message and production all coming together to create a piece of art that can bring me to tears of joy any time I listen.

I recently got back into collecting vinyl records and purchased a new turntable last year. When it arrived and I set it up, the first album I reached for was “Don Williams Greatest Hits”. Hearing his deep voice and smooth guitar melting through the speakers with the warmth that only analog music can provide, I felt like I was six years old again, watching my dad hug my mom and knowing that I was part of a loving family.

That’s what Don Williams means to me.

He passed away last Friday. While most of America spent the Saturday watching college football, I retreated to my music room upstairs and listened to Don Williams all day. Thank you for the music and the memories, sir. You’ll be missed.



I started keeping a journal in 1990, at the age of 17. It was one of the best things I ever did. Keeping a journal where I put my honest thoughts down on paper has allowed me a lot of introspection and self-analysis over the years. Every time I start to feel stuck in my life, frustrated, or lost, it always helps me to go back through the years, remind myself of mistakes and bad judgments, recognize the patterns and habits that led to happiness and success, and also recognize the patterns and habits that lead to hard times and disappointment.

On my 20th birthday, I decided to write down everything I’d learned at 20 years old. I kept that habit every birthday after, reflecting on things that I’d learned that year. I‘ve decided to revisit them and share some of my favorites. These are unedited, as they were written on the night of that birthday. I like the snapshot they provide of who I was that year.

I guess the best place to start is the first one…

TWENTY ~ 1993

Twenty years lay behind me,

over as quick as they did start

And the things I’ve learned, so many in number

weigh cluttered in my head and my heart


I learned no relationship is final until

you’ve made that promising vow of eternal love

That the truest friends are the ones you know

are rooted in God above.


I learned that until you question everything

you’ll never truly grow

‘Cause people won’t tell you the sides of things

that they really don’t want you to know.


I learned that men who claim to be men of God

will stab in the back their fellow man

But those who live like God is in their hearts,

don’t need to remind you of where they stand.


I learned that friends don’t stay close

if you make no effort to stay in touch

And friends who are true are those who can understand you

without you having to say very much.


I learned that the heart of a child is magic, truly magic

for it sees others with unblemished eyes

It looks at people heart to heart with an innocence

our society kills so slowly we don’t recognize


I learned that a brother or sister is the greatest gift

a best friend to be cherished to the end

And anyone can be a physical parent, but it takes a special

person to be a parent and a friend.


I learned that love is a dangerous emotion

and an even more dangerous word

But when it’s true and sincere, “I love you”

is the sweetest sound ever heard


I learned that an angry tongue is razor sharp

and its wounds are slow to heal,

That one should always follow his heart if

he thinks that the calling is real.


I learned that the things of modern society

are petty, unimportant and small

And getting out into wide open nature

is the greatest drug of all


I learned to choose my battles wisely, because

some private beliefs should stay just that.

There’s no need to force an argument jut because

someone is not where you’re at.


I learned that what government says is right and wrong

isn’t necessarily what God had in mind

We’ve tarnished the gifts that he’s given us so badly

that their true purposes are hard to find.


I learned that the perfect girl wears no bows, little make-up

and chooses clothes for comfort not name

She is content with herself and who she is,

and isn’t caught up in the “glamour girl” game.


I learned that money is merely paper and metal,

and it’s not what measures a man’s worth

Who a man is is defined by his heart and

the love that he spreads to this earth


I learned that my body is a gift from above

and I owe it to myself to take care of it

It’s not egotistical, it’s self respect to keep it healthy

and to keep it fit.


I learned when I die I want to have earned every single

belief that I ever had.

I want to be my own man, but I know I’ll be proud

if I grow up to be like my dad.


I learn that time, it goes by very quickly,

so grab each day and make it your own.

Strive to make each day that comes around

the most important you’ve ever known.


I learned that life is precious and sweet,

and should be cherished with all of my heart.

Because here I sit with twenty years passed

over as quickly as they did start.