Passings: Mentor Williams, Writer of "Drift Away" (1946 - 2016)

by VVN Music

Mentor Williams, songwriter, producer and brother of ASCAP president and fellow songwriter Paul Williams, died on Wednesday morning due to undisclosed reasons at the age of 70.

Mentor grew up with two brothers, Paul who went on to write such classics as Rainy Days and Mondays, Out in the Country and Evergreen and John who was a rocket scientist with NASA. He became a staff writer at Almo-Irving in Los Angeles during the late-60's and moved on to producing for a number of record labels in L.A., London and Nashville.

In 1973, his song Drift Away became a hit for Dobie Gray, reaching number 5 on the Hot 100 and 12 on Adult Contemporary. A country version by Narvel Felts reached number 8.

Mentor's brother, Paul, wrote about Drift Away for the Hollywood Reporter for ASCAP's 100th anniversary in 2014:
"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. 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.
Later in the 70's, he worked at both The Record Plant and Apple Records in London producing albums for the likes of Gerry Rafferty and Stealers Wheel, Kim Carnes and John Stewart, among others.

In the 80's, he built a home in Taos, NM which he shared with singer Lynn Anderson until her death last year. He also wrote a number of major country hits:

  • When We Make Love - Alabama (1984 / #1 Country / #8 AC / #72 Pop)
  • When a Woman Cries - Janie Frickie (1986 / #20 Country)
  • One For the Money - T.G. Sheppard (1987 / #2 Country)
  • A Few Ole Country Boys - George Jones and Randy Travis (1990 / #8 Country)
  • Drift Away - Uncle Kracker (2003 / #9 Pop / #1 Country)

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