Andy Williams, whose corn-fed good looks, easygoing charm and smooth rendition of “Moon River” propelled him to the heights of music stardom in the early ’60s, died Tuesday at his home in Branson, Mo., following a battle with bladder cancer, his family announced.
He was 84, and 2012 had marked his 75th year in showbiz. Williams is survived by his wife Debbie and his three children, Robert, Noelle and Christian.
With 17 gold and three platinum records to his name, Williams enjoyed his golden years playing golf and dividing his time between La Quinta, Calif., and Branson, where he appeared at his Andy Williams Moon River Theater since 1992.
It was on the stage of that theater, in November 2011, Williams announced he had bladder cancer. At the time, he assured fans the disease was no longer a death sentence and that he had every intention of being a survivor.
I grew up in music — family had a music store, my father and two of my siblings played professionally, I roadied a bit (for example for Roger Miller the country singer, among others) and, after setting the World Indoor Record for Number of Years In a First Year Piano Book, rather late discovered I could sing and did a little bit of that professionally, or at least for money. Like most really musical people, my family listened to everything, from Medieval music to Classical to “easy listening” to jazz and rock. In particular, we religiously watched Andy Williams’s TV variety show. and played his Christmas album at least 500 times between Thanksgiving and New Years Day.
The show always included duets with guest stars, and on many occasions, these turned into examples in music theory lessons from the other people who worked at our music store — I learned about chord changes, improvising as a singer, and how you can often get away with an improvised harmony by just picking one note from the chord and singing it while the guest takes the lead. This was something Williams did regularly, and if you think of it, it’s a pretty generous thing to do.
He hasn’t been signing and performing much in recent years, but thanks to the wonders of technology, you can still listen to him at his prime. Clean your ears of the “easy listening” bias and give it a try. That’s the best way to commemorate Andy.
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