Moon River crooner out­lasted many other stars of his era

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - ARTS & LIFE -

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.

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