Born: December 3, 1927; Died: September 25, 2012.
ANDY Williams, who has died at the age of 84 after a year-long battle with bladder cancer, was one of the most popular post-war singers.
Known as the Emperor of Easy Listening and the King of Cool, he had a voice that was variously described as "shiversome" and "incredibly seductive". He was renowned for hits such as Moon River, Born Free, Solitaire and Can't Get Used to Losing You, while his American TV show was responsible for introducing the Osmonds to the world. Former US president Ronald Reagan once called him "a national treasure".
Born Howard Andrew Williams, he began his career in his hometown of Wall Lake, Iowa, making his professional debut at the age of eight with his three brothers, Dick, Bob and Don, in a Presbyterian church choir that had been established by their parents. The Williams Brothers Quartet was a radio hit and when it came to the attention of Bing Crosby, he enabled the boys to make their first professional recording, Swinging on a Star, which became a sizeable hit in 1944. That same year, Williams was asked to dub the singing voice of Lauren Bacall in her film To Have and Have Not, but his contribution was not used.
When the quartet went their separate ways in 1951, Williams moved to New York to further his singing career. His early years were a struggle but he had a stroke of fortune when he began making regular appearances on Steve Allen's Tonight Show, which in turn led to his first recording contract. His first top 10 hit was Canadian Sunset, followed by Butterfly, Lonely Street, The Village of St Bernadette and The Hawaiian Wedding Song, the latter giving him the first of his five Grammy Award nominations.
In 1962 he began a long association with Columbia Records. It bore fruit almost immediately, thanks to the success of Can't Get Used to Losing You. His signature tune was Moon River, the Oscar-winning song from the film Breakfast at Tiffany's. His album, Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes, topped the charts, and the next one, Days of Wine and Roses, spent 16 weeks at No 1 in a chart residency spanning more than 100 weeks. Subsequent recordings earned him 18 gold and three platinum certified albums.
Williams and his then wife, the singer Claudine Longet, were well-connected, to the point where their closest friends included Senator Robert Kennedy and his wife Ethel. The Williams were due to meet the Kennedys late one night during the 1968 Democratic convention in Los Angeles. As the Williams were getting ready they heard that Kennedy had been assassinated. The senator was subsequently buried in Williams's own tie, and the singer sang at the funeral.
By this time, the weekly Andy Williams Show had been running for six years. It continued until 1972 and made him an international star. It was syndicated abroad and his fame ensured concerts in Britain and the rest of Europe, as well as further overseas, were always sold out. A keen golfer, he was spotted at the Turnberry Hotel a few days before Pavarotti arrived for his Glasgow Year of Culture appearance in 1990.
In May 1992, in Branson, Missouri, he opened the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre, a $12 million, ultra-modern venue that turned Branson into a key live-music venue. It won a Missouri conservation award and was the only theatre ever to be featured in Architectural Digest. Its lobby featured artworks from Williams's personal collection.
He enjoyed chart success again in 1999 when a car commercial made a hit of his version of Music to Watch Girls By. It prompted him to make his first European visit in a decade, and it proved highly popular. Aged 77, he also appeared at Glasgow's Clyde Auditorium in 2005. His autobiography, Moon River and Me, was published in October, 2009.
Last November, at his Missouri theatre, he broke the news of his bladder cancer. In July this year he returned home to spend his final days with his family, and urged them to think about the good times and the music he had sung during his long career. He is survived by his second wife Debbie and three children, Robert, Noelle and Christian.
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