Andy Williams, the smooth-voiced crooner best known for the movie themes “Moon River” and “Love Story” as well as the holiday standard “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” died Tuesday night. He was 84.
Williams died at his home in Branson, Mo., following a yearlong battle with bladder cancer, according to the Associated Press.
According to the AP, the Iowa native became a major star in 1956, the same year as Elvis Presley, with the Sinatra-like swing number “Canadian Sunset.” For a time, he was pushed into such Presley imitations as “Lips of Wine” and the No. 1 smash “Butterfly.”
But Williams mostly stuck to what he called his “natural style” and kept crooning throughout his career.
Movie songs became a specialty, including his signature “Moon River.” The longing Johnny Mercer-Henry Mancini ballad was his most famous song, even though Audrey Hepburn performed it first in her cherished 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
In addition, Williams made the top 10 with the theme from “Love Story,” the Oscar-winning tearjerker.
But “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” from his beloved Christmas TV specials, is my favorite Williams song. It was playing in the delivery room when my son Gabriel, a late November baby, was born.
Williams had 18 gold records, three platinum and five Grammy award nominations, according to the AP. He was once a constant presence on television with “The Andy Williams Show,” which lasted in various formats through the 1960s and into 1971. It won three Emmys and featured Williams alternately performing his stable of hits and bantering with guest stars.
Williams was also the first host of the live Grammy awards telecast and hosted the show for seven consecutive years, beginning in 1971.
After giving up touring, he settled in Branson, with its dozens of theaters featuring live music, comedy and magic acts, and was among the first wave of national entertainers to perform there regularly.
When he arrived in 1992, the town was dominated by country music, but Williams changed that with his classy, $13 million theater in the heart of the entertainment district, where he did two shows a night, six days a week, nine months of the year. Only in recent years did he cut back to one show a night. His most popular time was Christmas, according to the AP.
Williams is survived by his wife and his three children. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and fans.
To read his full AP obituary, click here.