Obit Andy Williams
FILE - In a Dec. 19, 1974 file photo, American singer Andy Williams and his wife Claudine Longet, shown upon arrival at the Odeon, Leicester Square, London, for the Royal Charity World premiere of "The Man With the Golden Gun." Emmy-winning TV host and "Moon River" crooner Williams died Tuesday night, Sept, 25, 2012 at his home in Branson, Mo., following a year-long battle with bladder cancer. He was 84. (AP Photo/Press Association, File)
A Tribute to Andy Williams
'Perhaps the most beautiful male voice ever': Tributes to Andy Williams, singer of Moon River, after he dies aged 84 after cancer battle
Andy Williams, the silky-voiced singer whose recording of Moon River brought him fans all over the world, has died at the age of 84.
Williams passed away on Tuesday night at his home in Branson, Missouri, following a year-long battle with bladder cancer, his publicist said.
Williams revealed in November 2011 that he had been diagnosed with the disease but planned to keep performing. Until recently, he continued to appear at the Moon River Theater he built in Branson for two shows a day, six days a week, across nine months of the year.
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The show must go on: Andy Williams continued to perform while he fought cancer. He died on Tuesday at his home in Branson, Missouri, at the age of 84
Timeless style: Andy Williams, legendary singer of Moon River, has died aged 84 at his U.S. home
Tributes poured in for Williams after news of his death. Singers Tony Orlando and Jimmy Osmond said that Williams convinced them and other performers to come to perform at the Moon River Theater. Orlando said the nation had lost a 'great treasure'.
Singer and chat show host Kathie Lee Gifford said: 'He had perhaps the most beautiful male voice ever. Perfect pitch.'
Pop star Robbie Williams tweeted: 'God bless Andy Williams. RW x.'
Williams began singing with his brothers as a child, and his easy style and mellow voice led President Ronald Reagan to call him 'a national treasure'.
The singer proved ideal for television. The Andy Williams Show, which lasted in various formats from 1957 to 1971, featured Williams alternately performing his stable of easy-listening ballads and bantering casually with his guest stars.
He received 18 gold and three platinum albums over his long career and was nominated for five Grammy awards. He released an autobiography in 2009, Moon River And Me: A Memoir.
Though his version of Moon River made him world famous, it was among his many hits, including Butterfly and Can't Get Used to Losing You.
From the beginning: Andy Williams gets a hug from Wayne Osmond as he appears on stage alongside the group including Donny (right) in 2007. The Osmonds launched their career on Williams' variety show
It was on his show that Williams introduced the world to the original four singing Osmond Brothers of Utah. Their younger sibling Donny also made his debut on Williams' show, in 1963 when he was six years old.
Life in showbusiness: Williams, pictured in 2008, received 18 gold and three platinum albums over his long career and was nominated for five Grammys
The singer's unflappable manner on television and in concert mirrored his offstage demeanor.
He once said: 'I guess I've never really been aggressive, although almost everybody else in show business fights and gouges and knees to get where they want to be.
'My trouble is, I'm not constructed temperamentally along those lines.'
Williams' clean-cut persona, which made him a popular act in conservative Branson, also carried over into his personal life. He was connected with scandal only once - indirectly - when his ex-wife, former Las Vegas showgirl Claudine Longet, shot her lover, skiing champion Spider Sabich, to death in 1976. The Rolling Stones mocked the tragedy in the song Claudine. Longet, who said it was an accident, spent only a week in jail, and Williams provided support for her and their children, Noelle, Christian and Robert.
Born in Wall Lake, Iowa, on December 3, 1927, Howard Andrew Williams began performing with his older brothers Dick, Bob and Don in the local Presbyterian church choir when he was eight years old. Their father, a postal worker, was the choirmaster.
Soon after, the Williams Brothers Quartet landed a regular spot on Des Moines radio station WHO's Iowa Barn Dance. The show quickly brought attention from Chicago, Cincinnati and Hollywood.
Famous friends: (left to right) Frank Sinatra, Charles Young and Andy Williams
Resolute performer: Williams (pictured in 1972, left) began his singing career at eight years old alongside his brothers and rose to global fame. He continued to perform until his death
Movie classic: Moon River was originally written for Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film Breakfast At Tiffany's although it later became synonymous with Williams
They joined Bing Crosby in recording the hit Swinging On A Star in 1944 for Crosby's film Going My Way, and Andy, barely a teenager, was picked to dub Lauren Bacall's voice on a song for the film To Have And Have Not.
'I'll keep going until I get to the point where I can't get out on stage'
His voice stayed in the film until the preview, when it was cut because it didn't sound like Bacall's.
Later the brothers worked with Kay Thompson, a singer who had taken a position as vocal coach at MGM studios, working with Judy Garland, June Allyson and others.
After three months of training, Thompson and the Williams Brothers broke in their show at the El Rancho Room in Las Vegas to a huge ovation.
They drew rave reviews in New York, Los Angeles and across the nation, earning a peak of $25,000 a week.
Great loves: Andy Williams with his first wife Claudine Longet (left) and second wife Debbie (right)
Star attraction: Andy Williams announces the winner of Song Of The Year at the 50th Grammy Awards along with Nelly Furtado (left) and actress Roselyn Sanchez
Williams, analyzing their success, once said: 'Somehow we managed to work up and sustain an almost unbearable pitch of speed and rhythm.'
After five years, the three older brothers, who were starting their own families, had tired of the constant travel and left to pursue other careers.
THE MAGIC OF MOON RIVER
Despite a long catalogue of hits, the song for which Andy Williams will forever be remembered is the timeless Moon River.
Written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer in 1961, it was originally composed for the movie Breakfast At Tiffany's to be sung by Audrey Hepburn's character Holly Golightly.
In the same year, Moon River won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was performed at the Oscars in 1962 by Williams who quickly became identified with the track.
Although he never released it as a single, Williams' album Moon River And Other Great Movie Themes was certified gold in 1963 after grossing $1million in sales.
In 1992, he opened a theatre in Branson, Missouri, named after his famous song.
Andy Williams' biography, Moon River And Me, was published in October 2009.
Williams initially struggled as a solo act and was so broke at one point that he resorted to eating food intended for his two dogs.
'I had no money for food, so I ate it,' he recalled in 2001, 'and it actually was damned good.'
A two-year TV stint on Steve Allen's Tonight Show and a contract with Cadence Records turned things around.
The Andy Williams Show followed, along with a host of gold albums and records.
Among his hit records were Canadian Sunset; The Hawaiian Wedding Song; Dear Heart; Days Of Wine And Roses, the theme from the movie Love Story, and Charade.
Williams was also known for his political involvement and campaigned for his close friend Senator Robert Kennedy. He was in Los Angeles when the senator was shot dead and sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic at his funeral, later saying it was the 'hardest thing I've ever done'.
However, Williams was not a natural Democrat and accused President Obama in 2009 of 'wanting the country to fail'. After leaving TV, Williams headed back on the road, where his many Christmas shows and albums made him a huge draw during the holidays. One year in Des Moines, however, a snowstorm kept the customers away, and the band's equipment failed to reach Chicago in time for the next night's show, forcing the musicians to borrow instruments from a high school band.
'No more tours,' Williams decreed. He decided to settle in Branson, the self-proclaimed 'live entertainment capital of the country,' with its dozens of theatres featuring live music, comedy and magic acts.
Friends in high places: Andy Williams and Miss Piggy on The Muppet Show in 1980
Life on film: Andy Williams and Sandra Dee in the film I'd Rather Be Rich in 1964
When he arrived in 1992, the town was dominated by country music performers, but Williams changed that, building the classy, $13 million Andy Williams Moon River Theater in the heart of the city's entertainment district and performing two shows a night, six days a week, nine months of the year. Only in recent years did he begin to cut back to one show a night.
Not surprisingly, his most popular time of the year was Christmas, although he acknowledged that not everyone in Hollywood accepted his move to the Midwest.
'The fact is most of my friends in LA still think I'm nuts for coming here,' he told The Associated Press in 1998.
Celebrated: Andy Williams opened the Moon River Theater in 1992 in Branson, Missouri, where he performed six days a week, nine months of the year
Popular venue: Although Branson was originally dominated by country singers, Williams' Moon River Theater saw a variety of musicians come to visit
He and his second wife, the former Debbie Haas, divided their time between homes in Branson and Palm Springs, where he spent his leisure hours on the golf course when Branson's theatres were dark during the winter months following Christmas.
Retirement was not on his schedule. As he told the AP in 2001: 'I'll keep going until I get to the point where I can't get out on stage.'
He continued to perform even after announcing his bladder cancer diagnosis in 2011.
Williams is survived by his wife, Debbie, and his three children, Robert, Noelle and Christian.
Royal welcome: Williams meets the Queen Mother along with singers Max Bygraves and Dionne Warwick at the Royal Variety Show in London in 1970
Festive spirit: The Christmas special of the Andy Williams show in 1969 which was highly popular with American TV audiences
Singer Andy Williams returns home to spend his dying days surrounded by family
Singer Andy Williams has returned home to spend his final days with his family after doctors told him they can do nothing more to treat his bladder cancer.
The Moon River crooner, 84, is now at his Branson, Missouri, home surrounded by his wife, children and friends.
He has asked them to remember the good times and the music he has created over a career that has last three-quarters of a century.
Crooner: Andy Williams has returned home to spend his final days with his family after doctors told him they can do nothing more to treat his bladder cancer
'They are all desperately sad to see their father suffer,' a source told the Sunday Express. 'But he has told them all not to cry for him and remember him when he has gone through the music he has loved all his life.'
Williams announced he was suffering from bladder cancer onstage at a show at the Moon River Theater in Branson last December.
He told the audience that he vowed to return in 2012 to celebrate his 75th year in showbusiness.
He said: 'I do have cancer of the bladder. But that is no longer a death sentence. People with cancer are getting through this thing.
'They're kicking it, and they're winning more and more every year. And I'm going to be one of them.'
The singer had missed planned performances towards the end of last year with a then-undisclosed medical condition.
Onstage: Williams announced he was suffering from bladder cancer at a Christmas concert in Branson, Missouri, last year (pictured)
Legend: The singer had missed planned performances towards the end of last year with a then-undisclosed medical condition
He went for treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, Texas, before renting a home in Malibu, California, to be near cancer specialists in Los Angeles.
He has now returned to Branson to be with his second wife Debbie and his three children - Noelle, 48, Christian, 47, and Bobby, 42 - from his first marriage to actress and singer Claudine Longet.
Williams had a string of hits in the 1950s and 1960s, including Can't Get Used To Losing You and Butterfly, but he is best known for his version of Moon River.
He has amassed 18 gold and three platinum albums over the course of his career.
Family: Williams, pictured with his second wife Debbie, last year vowed to beat the disease
Mr Williams has three children in their 40s with his first wife Claudine Longet (pictured)
Williams hosted annual Christmas specials on television and performed Christmas shows on the road for many years.
His 1963 recording, It's the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, is a seasonal standard.
Born in Iowa, he also hosted an Emmy-winning variety television programme, The Andy Williams Show, from 1962 to 1971.
As the king of easy-listening music he revelled in a refreshingly wholesome image during the drug-addled Sixties.
Yet in a fascinating – and movingly honest – new autobiography, Andy Williams, now 81, makes a confession that will stun his millions of admirers...
The Sixties brought me some of the happiest times of my life – three beautiful children, a smash-hit TV show, sell-out concerts and gold albums – but they ended in sadness when I split from my wife Claudine.
The turmoil of our break-up led me down a shocking and unexpected path, especially for someone seen as a wholesome, all-American entertainer. I experimented with LSD.
I first met Claudine Longet in 1961 when I was performing in Las Vegas. By that time I was appearing regularly on TV and had a number of hit singles, including a No1, Butterfly.
Precious moment: Andy with wife Claudine and children Noelle and Christian at home in July 1965
Claudine was 19 and appearing at a Folies Bergere show. She didn’t speak English and my French was useless, but we were able to communicate enough to date for the entire time I was in Vegas. After my stint finished, I followed Claudine back to Paris, where I proposed. Her English must have improved because it took her just a fraction of a second to say yes.
We married in December 1961 and two years later our daughter Noelle was born. We went on to have two more children – Christian was born in 1964 and Bobby arrived in 1969.
That same year, I returned home after being away on tour for two weeks. As I poured Claudine and me a glass of wine each, she told me we needed to talk.
‘I can’t go on living like this,’ she said. ‘The kids and I hardly ever see you and when we do, you’re preoccupied, or on the phone with your manager, or the studios. And...’ She paused for a moment. ‘And things aren’t the same between us.’
She was right.
The thrill I used to get when I saw her walking towards me had faded. The private, intimate looks we used to exchange were less frequent, but until that moment I had not understood how far down that path we had travelled. Claudine had fallen out of love with me.
We knew what we were losing, but we couldn’t undo what had already been done. I think it broke our hearts, but in the end we agreed to split.
My marriage was over and I had to live with the knowledge that I bore responsibility for that. The decision made, there seemed no point in delaying so I packed a bag and moved out.
Being on tour was a way of hiding from my problems for a while, but they were still waiting for me when I returned. Whether because of the parting from Claudine or for other, less tangible reasons, my life was in turmoil.
I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t happier with my life. Why wasn’t I feeling well physically? I decided to get a full examination at the Scripps Clinic near San Diego, California.
'My Marriage to Claudine was over and I was responsible'
The last person I saw there was the psychiatrist. It was a surreal moment as I lay on the black leather couch in his book-lined consulting room, while he sat behind me in a straight-backed chair with a notebook on his knee.
It was such a cliched scene – I had seen it in films a hundred times. It was all I could do not to laugh, even though my reason for being there was entirely serious.
After I told him my life story, he said: ‘You might be helped by taking LSD treatments.
You could see a shrink for years trying to find out why you’re not happy, but with LSD you might do that in just a few sessions.’
LSD was at the time seen as a miracle drug, although doubts about it were beginning to surface, as Timothy Leary’s ‘turn on, tune in, drop out’ rhetoric drew unfavourable Press.
I persuaded Claudine to try LSD with me. I wonder now if I had really accepted we had split up for good or whether I clung to the hope that somehow it might be all right again.
In fact, by the time the first session was set up, the Scripps Clinic had bowed to pressure and ceased doing LSD treatment. Instead, I flew alone to Canada and stayed for a couple of weeks at a clinic while a doctor named Ross MacLean administered LSD and another hallucinogenic drug, mescaline, to me in different doses and supervised my trips.
The session took place in an antiseptic-looking room, watched over by Dr MacLean and his assistants.
The LSD was in liquid form, dripped on to a sugar cube or a tiny square of blotting paper. It was odourless, colourless and tasteless.
The mescaline was solid and had a bitter, musty taste – the first time I took it, I was sick. For my first LSD experience, nothing seemed to be happening at first.
‘I don’t think it’s working,’ I told Dr MacLean. He smiled and said: ‘Give it time.’
Then things did start to happen – shapes began shifting and changing, while colours
Hours later, when I began to come down again, I could not have told you if minutes, hours or even days had passed. Dr MacLean gave me different visual stimuli and played different kinds of music, from soft and sensual sounds to marching bands, and noted my reactions.
'I spiralled in and out of awareness'
I experienced the things that most people did when taking psychedelic drugs – the intensely heightened senses, the beauty of colours and sounds, the contrasting phases of feeling. One moment, I would feel like I was a lord of the cosmos, the next I would be focused on a microscopic detail – a coloured thread fluttering in the breeze, or specks of dust hanging in the air.
LSD gave me powerful feelings of euphoria – some sex-related – but also a sense of fear and despair. During one session I was even born again – not in the evangelical sense, but in believing I was experiencing the very painful physical sensations of birth.
I’m not sure if LSD did me any good, but one thing did come out of my stay at the clinic.
It was probably the first time in years I had taken a few days away from my career.
Between the LSD sessions in Canada I had time to reflect on the direction my life had been taking and to examine my priorities. I came to realise my children and my relationship with my family were the things that really counted.
Sadly, that realisation had come too late to save my marriage; it was fractured beyond repair. That had been my fault and I had to face up to life without Claudine. Although we separated, there was no personal animosity between us, just sadness that our relationship had come to an end. Even after we divorced in 1975, we remained on good terms. It was such an amicable divorce that we used the same lawyer to represent us.
As part of the settlement, Claudine kept our beachfront house in Malibu. Despite what had happened, I was determined to remain a good friend to her, if she ever needed me, and to be a good father to our children.
I tried to fit family life around my work as much as possible and sometimes I took the children on tour with me, but they also had to deal with the drawbacks of being children of a celebrity.
Noelle once said: ‘I loved being with you, Papa, and always wanted to be with you. The only problem was that everybody else in the world did, too.’
In one way the break-up of my marriage may have been less traumatic for my children than for other kids. I had been away on tour so often they were already pretty much living just with Claudine and seeing me only at weekends and holidays, an arrangement that continued in much the same way after we split.
Years later, my son Bobby admitted that for years he hadn’t realised his mother and I were divorced. In my less self-aware moments, I might almost have taken that as a compliment. But what it really revealed was how distant I must have been in the years before we separated.
It has been said that the only inscription you never see in a graveyard is ‘Wish I’d spent more time at the office’, and my greatest regret is that I didn’t spend more time with my children when they were young.
Despite growing up with every material advantage, my children haven’t become spoiled, rich kids, celebrity fodder for trashy magazines. They are grounded, normal people.
For that, Claudine must take the lion’s share of the credit.
Why I had to say No to Frank Sinatra’s wife
Frank Sinatra and I were neighbours for a while when he was married to Mia Farrow.
My relationship with him was good, although it is doubtful things would have stayed that way if he had seen an incident with Mia one night.
I was having a drink at a popular nightclub, when Mia walked over and said: ‘Andy, do you want to dance?’
Neighbours: Andy in the Sixties with Frank Sinatra - 'a loyal friend who had a vindictive side'
As soon as we started dancing, she put her arms around my neck. Fooling around with Frank’s wife on a crowded dancefloor wasn’t
a smart move and I tried to ease away, saying: ‘Mia, this really isn’t a good idea.’ She laughed.
A few seconds later, two of Mia’s friends came over, disentangled her from my neck,
and said: ‘Come on, Mia. Time to go home.’
Sinatra could be a loyal friend, but he had a vindictive side.
I saw that one evening when I was having dinner in Palm Springs with Frank and about eight other friends, including the actress Lucille Ball and her husband Gary Morton.
Frank seemed relaxed, wise-cracking, until a drunk accidentally spilled red wine over Morton’s suede jacket. Frank’s mood changed instantly. Although the drunk offered to pay for cleaning the jacket, Sinatra fixed him with a look that would have frozen a martini.
He then muttered something to his bodyguard Jilly, who took the guy outside and broke his nose.
It was a mystery to me how someone like Sinatra, who could sing with heart-melting tenderness, could act with such cold cruelty.
So poor and hungry I ate my dog’s food
I was just five when my three elder brothers and I first sang in public. Our father Jay was our driving force and moved the family from Iowa to Los Angeles to get us work, leading to radio shows and a contract with MGM.
But it was Kay Thompson, a singer, dancer, pianist and comedian, who persuaded us to become a nightclub act, cutting Dad out of the picture.
The Williams Brothers went on to be highly successful, but by 1953 we had split and I moved to New York to work on my solo act with Kay. I had always harboured a huge crush for Kay, despite her being 19 years my senior, and soon our work together became more than strictly business.
A new career was not going to be easy. After the adulation I had enjoyed in the Williams Brothers, my early appearances as a solo singer were a brutal comedown.
I was earning so little on tour that I couldn’t afford to have my tuxedo pressed, so I made it a rule never to sit down in it.
The low point came in an unsavoury hotel in Cleveland, Ohio, where cockroaches could be heard scuttling across the floor.
I didn’t have two cents in my pocket, had not eaten all day and only had my dog Barnaby for company. That evening I gave Barnaby his dog food – big chunks of horsemeat and gravy. I was so hungry and it smelled so good that I ate a whole plateful.
Fortunately after that low point, I got a slot on NBC and a deal with a small record label. In 1957, Butterfly went to No1.
Moon River was recorded in more or less one take in 1962, as the time booked in the studio was running out. I never released it as a single, but it has become the song with which I’m always identified.
He published an autobiography, Moon River And Me: A Memoir in 2009.
2/10/08----Los Angeles--- Andy and Debbie Williams arrive at the 50th Grammys Awards Ceremony at The Staples Center in Los Angeles . (PHOTO BY JEFF GRACE LA OPINION)
In this Aug. 5, 1966 photo provided by the Las Vegas News Bureau, Andy Williams performs at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Andy Williams, whose hit recording "Moon River" and years of popular Christmas TV shows brought him fans the world over, died Tuesday night, Sept, 25, 2012 at his home in Branson, Mo., following a yearlong battle with bladder cancer. He was 84.(AP Photo/Las Vegas News Bureau)