RIP: Andy Williams

Posted September 26, 2012 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

“Moon River” crooner dies from bladder cancer at 84

For six decades, Andy Williams serenaded his large fanbase on television shows, in concerts and on vinyl. As one of the legendary crooners from the golden era of easy-listening pop, he recorded legendary records like “Moon River” and was easily associated with holiday classics like “It’s the Holiday Season/Happy Holidays” and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Because of the lengthy catalog of holiday albums he was associated with, he was often dubbed “Mr. Christmas.”

Born in Wall Lake, Iowa, Williams began his recording career in 1953 after recording six sides on the “X” subsidiary of RCA Victor. Without any hits to emerge from those sessions, he became a popular favorite on the Steve Allen Show. Hit records like the Number One pop hit “Butterfly,” “The Hawaiian Wedding Song” and “I Like Your Kind of Love” followed. By the 1960’s, Williams left the small label of Cadence for Columbia and enjoyed a great list of best-selling records and singles, including “Can’t Get Used to Losing You,” “A Fool Never Learns” and “On the Street You Live.” He also became known for singing anthems in motion pictures, such as “Speak Softly Love;” the official vocal version of the instrumental anthem for The Godfather (1972). Seventeen of his albums have been certified gold (selling over 500,000 units), including his 1970 “greatest hits” compilation. Three have been certified platinum.

Although he was best known for singing “Moon River,” the story behind his association with the classic is highly interesting, since it was never released as a single. Composer Henry Mancini asked him to sing it at the 1962 Academy Awards. The televised performance won an Oscar and quickly became  Williams’ most popular song. He also hosted the Grammy Awards seven times, from 1971 to 1977.

Williams continued to record music into the late ’70’s, although reissues, outtakes and the occasional studio visits brought him additional action on Billboard music charts. His stint with Columbia ended in 1980, but his career continued A 2007 reissue of Williams’s holiday favorite, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” lept to number 21 on the UK Singles’ chart.

Williams was also very involved in politics and was a registered Republican. Ironically, he had a close relationship with the Kennedys. He campaigned in 1968 for his friend Robert F. Kennedy and sung “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” at Kennedy’s funeral that year, at the request of widow Ethel.

Williams died at the age of 84 after a year-long bout with bladder cancer. He is survived by Meyer and three children from his first marriage, Robert,  Noelle and Christian.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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