“Moon River” singer Andy Williams dies at 84
Silky-voiced crooner Andy Williams, the one behind the hit song Moon River, passed away at the age of 84.
According to reports, Andy Williams died on Tuesday night at his home in Branson, Missouri, following a year-long, arduous battle with bladder cancer.
In November 2011, Williams revealed that he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer, but planned to keep performing. Until recently, the singer continued his appearance at the Moon River Theater he built in Branson for two shows a day, six days a week, across nine months of the year.
Following the death of Andy Williams, tributes poured in for the singer from various celebrities. Singers Jimmy Osmond and Tony Orlando said that Andy convinced them, as well as other performers, to come and perform at the Moon River Theater. Orlando said the nation had lost a “great treasure.”
Singer and TV host Kathie Lee Gifford also expressed her sentiments about Williams, saying, “He had perhaps the most beautiful male voice ever. Perfect pitch.”
Pop star Robbie Williams tweeted, “God bless Andy Williams. RW x.”
Andy Williams began singing with his brothers as a child, and his easy style and mellow voice led then-President Ronald Reagan to call him ‘a national treasure.”
The singer, who recorded eighteen Gold and three Platinum-certified albums proved to be ideal for television. “The Andy Williams Show,” which lasted in several formats from 1957 to 1971, featured the crooner alternately performing his stable of easy-listening ballads and casually joking with his guest stars on the show.
Andy Williams brought home 18 gold and three platinum album over the course of his long career in music, and he was even nominated for five Grammy awards. In 2009, he released an autobiography titled, “Moon River and Me: A Memoir.”
Although his version of Moon River was the one that made him globally famous, it was just among his many hits, such as “Butterfly” and “Can’t Get Use to Losing You.”
It was on “The Andy Williams Show” that the singer introduced the world to the original four-singing Osmond Brothers of Utah. Their younger sibling, Donny, also made his debut on Williams’ show in 1963 when he was just six years of age.
The singer’s calm and cool manner on television and in concert mirrored his off-stage demeanor.
Andy Williams once said, “I guess I’ve never really been aggressive, although almost everybody else in show business fights and gouges and knees to get where they want to be. My trouble is, I’m not constructed temperamentally along those lines.”
The clean-cut persona of the singer, which made him a famous act in conservative Branson, also carried over into his personal life.
Williams was connected with scandal only once, indirectly, when his former wife, ex-Las Vegas showgirl Claudine Longet, shot her lover to death in 1976, skiing champion Spider Sabich.
Longet, who said it was all an accident, spent only a week in prison, and Andy Williams provided support for her and their children — Noelle, Christian and Robert.
Born in Wall Lake, Iowa, Andy Williams — whose real name is Howard Andrew Williams — began performing with his older brothers Dick, Bob and Don in the local Presbyterian church choir when he was just eight years old. Their father, who is a postal worker, was the choirmaster.
Soon after, the Williams Brothers Quartet landed a regular spot on Des Moines radio station WHO’s Iowa Barn Dance. The show quickly drew attention from Chicago, Cincinnati and Hollywood.
They joined Bing Crosby in recording the hit song “Swinging On A Star” in 1944 for Crosby’s film “Going My Way,” and Andy, who was barely a teenager at the time, was picked to dub Lauren Bacall’s voice on a song for the film “To Have And Have Not.” Andy’s voice stayed in the film until the preview, when it was cut because it didn’t sound like Bacall’s.
Later, the brothers worked with Kay Thompson, a singer who had taken a position as vocal coach at MGM studios, working with Judy Garland, June Allyson and others.
After three months of training, Thompson and the Williams Brothers broke in their show at the El Rancho Room in Las Vegas to a big ovation.
They drew excellent reviews in Los Angeles, New York and across the nation, earning a peak of $25,000 a week.