Moon River crooner outlasted many other stars of his era
ST. LOUIS — With a string of gold albums, a hit TV series and the signature Moon River, Andy Williams was a voice of the 1960s, although not the ’60s we usually hear about.
The singer known for his easy-listening style and his wholesome, middleAmerica appeal was the antithesis of the counterculture that gave rise to rock ’n’ roll.
“The old cliché says that if you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t there,” he once recalled. “Well, I was there all right, but my memory of them is blurred — not by any drugs I took but by the relentless pace of the schedule I set myself.”
Williams’ plaintive tenor, boyish fea- tures and clean-cut demeanour helped him outlast many of the decade’s rock stars and fellow crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. He remained on the charts into the 1970s, hosting hugely popular Christmas television specials and becoming closely associated with the holiday standard The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
Williams, who continued to perform into his 80s at the Moon River Theatre he built in Branson, Mo., announced in November 2011 that he had been diag- nosed with bladder cancer and vowed to return to performing the following year, his 75th in show business.
The 84-year-old entertainer died Tuesday night at his Branson home following a yearlong battle with the disease, his Los Angeles-based publicist, Paul Shefrin, said Wednesday.
Williams became a major star in 1956, the same year as Elvis Presley, with the Sinatra-like swing number Canadian Sunset. For a time, he was pushed into such Presley imitations as Lips of Wine and the No. 1 smash Butterfly.
But he mostly stuck to what he called his “natural style” and kept it up throughout his career. In 1970, when even Sinatra had temporarily retired, Williams was in the top 10 with the theme from Love Story, the Oscar-winning tearjerker. He had 18 gold records and three platinum, was nominated for five Grammy awards and hosted the Grammy ceremonies for several years.
Movie songs became a specialty, including his signature Moon River. The longing Johnny Mercer-Henry Mancini ballad was his most famous song.
The Andy Williams Show, which lasted in various formats through the 1960s and into 1971, won three Emmys and featured Williams alternately performing his stable of hits and bantering with guest stars.
It was on that show that Williams — who launched his own career as part of an all-brother quartet — introduced the world to another clean-cut act — the original four singing Osmond Brothers of Utah. Their younger sibling Donny also made his debut on Williams’ show, in 1963, when he was six years old. Four decades later, the Osmonds and Williams would find themselves in close proximity again, sharing Williams’ theatre in Branson.
Williams is survived by his second wife, the former Debbie Haas, and his three children, Robert, Noelle and Christian.