Nicole Sands
September 08, 2017 AT 05:20 PM EDT

Country Music Hall of Famer Don Williams has died after a short illness, his rep confirms. He was 78.

After beginning his career in Nashville in the late 1960s and signing a songwriting contract in the early 1970s, Williams made his chart debut with “The Shelter of Your Eyes” in 1973.

Over the course of his decades-long career, the so-called “Gentle Giant” of country music recorded hits like “Tulsa Time,” “Good Ole Boys Like Me,” and “It Must Be Love.” Williams earned 17 No. 1 country hits throughout his career.

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Williams held his final performance and retired in 2016, saying it was time to “hang up his hat and enjoy some quiet time at home.”

“I’m so thankful for my fans, my friends, and my family for their everlasting love and support,” Williams said at the time.

Erika Goldring/WireImage

In 2017, the singer was the subject of a tribute album, Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams, which included performances of his hits by artists such as Garth Brooks and Lady Antebellum.

Funeral arrangements are still pending for the star, according to his publicity firm.

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