NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Don Williams, an award-winning country singer with love ballads like “I Believe in You,” has died. He was 78.

A statement from his publicist Kirt Webster said he died Friday after a short illness.

Williams had 17 No. 1 hits before retiring in 2016. His mellow sound influenced a later generation of singers including Joe Nichols and Josh Turner, and Keith Urban has said Williams drew him to country music.

Williams, nicknamed “The Gentle Giant,” had a rich voice, gentle delivery and storytelling style. He toured sparingly, did few media interviews and spent much of his time on his farm west of Nashville.

His hits included “I Believe in You,” “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good,” “You’re My Best Friend,” “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend,” “Till the Rivers All Run Dry” and “Back in My Younger Days.” At least one duet with Emmylou Harris made the charts, “If I Needed You” in 1981.

“Don Williams offered calm, beauty, and a sense of wistful peace that is in short supply these days,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, in a statement Friday.

“His music will forever be a balm in troublesome times. Everyone who makes country music with grace, intelligence, and ageless intent will do so while standing on the shoulders of this gentle giant.”