’60s crooner and TV host Andy Williams died Tuesday night after a year long battle with bladder cancer. A major music star contemporary with Elvis and Sinatra, Williams had 18 gold records, with three going platinum, and was nominated for five Grammys, along with hosting the awards show a number of times. He specialized in movie tunes, such as “Love Story,” “Days of Wine and Roses” and, most famously, “Moon River.” Below, a roundup of obit highlights and video.
The AP obit on Williams repeats the oft-told story that Williams dubbed 19-year-old Lauren Bacall in her first film, Howard Hawks’ “To Have and Have Not.” Hawks and Bacall both deny this, admitting that Williams was tested dubbing her, but Hawks finally used her voice.
“You wouldn’t believe how ‘Moon River’ became a hit,” [Williams] said in a 1989 interview with the Chicago Tribune. “I was having dinner with [songwriters] Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, who had just finished recording the movie ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ with Audrey Hepburn singing ‘Moon River’ out on the balcony with a guitar.
“So Mancini and Mercer played this song for me, which I thought was great. But my record company was really into singles then, and they said: ‘I don’t think phrases like ‘my Huckleberry friend’ will make it with the kids — they won’t know what it means.'”
But about four weeks before the 1962 Academy Awards program, he recalled, “I was invited to sing ‘Moon River’ on the Oscars show, and Columbia Records decided we ought to rush a ‘Moon River’ album into the stores, because that tune looked like a shoo-in for the ‘best song’ Oscar.
“So they quickly put out an album, had it in the stores on the day of the Oscars, and the next morning it sold 500,000 copies.”
Williams’ plaintive tenor, boyish features and easy demeanor helped him outlast many of the rock stars who had displaced him and such fellow crooners as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. He remained on the charts into the 1970s, and continued to perform in his 80s at the Moon River Theatre he built in Branson, Mo. In November 2011, when Williams announced that he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer, he vowed to return to performing the following year: His 75th in show business.
“I still think I’m not as good as anybody else,” he told an interviewer as he approached retirement after a career in which he sold many millions of records.
Mr. Williams’s heyday spanned the life of his musical variety TV program, “The Andy Williams Show,” which aired on NBC from 1962 to 1967 and again from 1969 to 1971. The Christmas specials that spun off from the show ran for decades afterward, featuring celebrity carolers as well as members of the Williams family. The specials became television staples for generations of viewers and epitomized the season as much as department store Santas.
Mr. Williams was close friends with Senator Robert F. Kennedy and his wife, Ethel, and sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” at Kennedy’s funeral in 1968, but he considered himself a Republican. By 2009 he had become an outspoken one. “Obama is following Marxist theory,” he told The Radio Times, a British magazine. “He’s taken over the banks and the car industry. He wants the country to fail.”