Remembering Andy Williams

The legendary singer has passed away after a year long battle with bladder cancer, but he won’t soon be forgotten.

Andy Williams was one of the most popular vocalists of his time. Known for his big voice and perfect pitch, he was also a notable figure on television with The Andy Williams Show. 

While his wholesome, middle America appeal, plaintive tenor, and clean cut demeanor made him the antithesis to the rock n’ roll culture of the 1960s, it also helped him to outlast many of that decade’s stars such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. While they faded away in the 1970s, Williams remained on the charts, hosting popular Christmas specials, winning Grammys, and making gold and platinum records.

He first hit it big in 1956, the same year Elvis Presley was breaking, with his song “Canadian Sunset”:

Not only did he win Grammys, but he was the first person to host the live television broadcast of the awards in 1971. He went on to host it for seven years in a row.

He became synonymous with soundtrack songs for films when his recording of “Moon River” became the staple song of the huge Audrey Hepburn classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s. While the song has been covered countless times by a myraid of artists, his remains the definitive version, and he made the song his personal brand.

“When I hear anybody else sing it, it’s all I can to do stop myself from shouting at the television screen, ‘No! That’s my song!'” he wrote in his 2009 memoir Moon River and Me.

The Andy Williams Show aired from 1960 until 1971, and helped to launch the careers of countless other singers, most famously, the Osmands.

By 1992 he decided to stop touring and settle down in Branson, Missouri, but for him, settling down meant building a $13 million dollar theatre in the entertainment district, and performing two shows a night, six days a week, for nine months out of the year. Only recently did he cut back to one show a night.

He never saw retiring as an option, telling the Associated Press in 2001: “I’ll keep going until I get to the point where I can’t get out on stage.”

Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow remembers Williams in a statement released to the press:

“Andy Williams’ smooth voice and casual style turned the songs he sang into timeless classics and made him one of America’s top pop singers. As host of his own weekly variety series, The Andy Williams Show, he helped put both established and emerging talent in front of American audiences. Williams was the first host of the live Grammy Awards telecast and hosted the show for seven consecutive years, beginning with the 13th Annual Grammy Awards in March 1971 at the Hollywood Palladium. The entertainment industry has lost a giant piece of its living history today, but Williams’ legacy will forever be enshrined in the annals of music and television. Our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends, and all who will miss this American treasure.”

He is survived by his wife, Debbie, and his three children from his marriage to Claudine Longet, Robert, Noelle and Christian.

BBC reports on his passing:

Sources: Wikipedia, CTV News, USA Today, BBC, Calgary Herald

Photo ©Associated Press

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