Mentor Williams

Mentor Ralph Williams (June 11, 1946 – November 16, 2016) was an American songwriter and producer. He is best known for writing "Drift Away", a classic performed by Dobie Gray in 1973. He also co-wrote the chart-topping song, "When We Make Love", recorded by the American country music band Alabama in 1984. He was the brother of songwriter and actor Paul Williams.

Mentor Williams
Birth nameMentor Ralph Williams
Born(1946-06-11)June 11, 1946
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
DiedNovember 16, 2016(2016-11-16) (aged 70)
Taos, New Mexico, U.S.
Associated actsDobie Gray

Early lifeEdit

Williams was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Paul Hamilton Williams, an architectural engineer, and his wife, Bertha Mae (née Burnside), a homemaker.

His father died in a car accident in 1953, when Williams was 7 years old, after which the Williams family moved to Long Beach, California, to live with an aunt.

One of his brothers is John J. Williams, a NASA rocket scientist, who participated in the Mercury and Apollo programs and was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, their highest honor, in 1969.[1] His other brother is Paul Williams, a Songwriter's Hall of Fame inductee.


Williams pursued a songwriting career in which he received an ASCAP award for his 30 years of songwriting, and won 17 other writing awards.[2]

Williams maintained an office at Almo-Irving, in Los Angeles, as staff writer in the late 1960s. He produced for A&M, MCA, RSO and Columbia Records, commuting between Los Angeles, Nashville, and London.

He worked at The Record Plant with Paul McCartney and Kenney Jones and at Apple Studios in London with Stealers Wheel and Gerry Rafferty. He produced albums for his brother, as well as for Kim Carnes, John Stewart, and Dobie Gray for who he wrote the standard ~ Drift Away, among others. Mentor was a post-production, re-mix engineer for The Muppet Movie, which won a Grammy Award and an Academy Award. He worked on the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid soundtrack.[citation needed] He also produced five songs by the Textones, one of which appeared on their album Through The Canyon (Rhino Records).

Personal lifeEdit

Williams built a home overlooking Taos, New Mexico, which he shared with country music singer Lynn Anderson; the two were in a romantic relationship from the 1980s until her death in 2015.[2]

He held numerous songwriting seminars and lectures at the college level, in an attempt to help up-and-coming writers learn the craft of putting words and music together.

Williams died in 2016 of lung cancer, at age 70, at his home in Taos.[3][4]


  1. ^ "National Aeronautics and Space Administration Honor Awards". SP-4012 NASA historical data book: volume IV NASA resources 1969-1978: NASA. Retrieved February 3, 2015.CS1 maint: location (link)
  2. ^ a b Romancito, Rick (November 16, 2016). "'Drift Away' songwriter Mentor Williams has died". The Taos News. Archived from the original on November 21, 2016.
  3. ^ Betts, Stephen L. (17 November 2016). "'Drift Away' Songwriter Mentor Williams Dead at 70". Rolling Stone. ISSN 0035-791X.
  4. ^ Hudetz, Mary (18 November 2016). "Mentor Williams, 'Drift Away' songwriter, dead at 70". Las Vegas Sun. Associated Press.

External linksEdit