Andy Williams stamped his legacy as a crooner thanks to the popular "Moon River" and through his close connection to Christmas music, particularly "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."
His death on Wednesday at 84 was mourned by fans of his music and those who saw him as a vital part of Americana, thanks in part to his TV variety show and Christmas show.
"When someone who has entertained and brightened our lives passes away, it's always a shock," wrote Barry ZeVan for StarTribune.com. When one has a direct connection to the person who passed, it's even more of a shock, and amplifies the sadness. I felt the shock and sadness this morning when learning about last night's death of the legendary and ingratiating Andy Williams."
Williams was a star of popular music in the 1960s and 1970s through his Christmas albums, nightclub performances and television variety show, died Wednesday at his home in Branson, Missouri. The cause was bladder cancer.
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Since 1992, Williams made his home mostly in Branson, where he built, ran and performed at the 2,000-seat Moon River Theatre. During a concert there in November, he announced he had bladder cancer and vowed to return in 2012 to celebrate the Christmas season and to mark his 75th year in show business.
Williams became closely associated with Christmas through the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” which he recorded and released in 1963, and through the television specials he hosted each holiday season -- always with his family as special guests, and always in a colorful sweater that practically screamed yuletide cheer.
“The show I always enjoyed doing above all others was the Christmas show, and it was the one that the audiences loved the most, too,” Williams wrote in “Moon River and Me,” his 2009 memoir. “It always had the highest ratings of the entire season. To this day people stop me on the street and tell me how much they cherished the Christmas shows and how much it meant to their whole family.”
“The Andy Williams Show,” a weekly variety show, ran on NBC from 1962 to 1967, and again from 1969 to 1971. It helped make stars of the Osmond Brothers, whose 1963 performance was so popular that they were asked to become regulars.
Eighteen of Williams’s albums were certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, meaning they each sold more than 500,000 copies. Three others sold more than 1 million copies each, achieving platinum status: “The Andy Williams Christmas Album” (1963), “Merry Christmas” (1965) and “Love Story” (1971).
Though he was a Republican who was close with President Ronald Reagan, Williams became friends with Robert Kennedy in the 1960s and was traveling with his presidential campaign on June 5, 1968, when Kennedy was assassinated in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Williams sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” at the memorial service for Kennedy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York — which he called “the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
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More recently, Williams’s politics drew interest after he told the U.K. magazine Radio Times in 2009 that U.S. President Barack Obama “is following Marxist theory” and “wants the country to fail.”
In an ABC News interview, he partially backtracked.
“I have nothing, absolutely, against a liberal Democrat,” he said. “I just think sometimes, like a lot of Americans, that he might be guiding us in the wrong direction. But that’s, that’s just from a singer. It really doesn’t mean much.”
Those in the music industry mourned Williams' death.
"We've lost a very special man today. He personified to me, for the country, a style of grace, dignity and class with everything he did," said singer Tony Orlando. "He had an ability to make everything seem balanced and perfect and, you know, we've lost a great American treasure."
"He was a wonderful person," said musician Smokey Robinson. "He befriended me when I was just a teenager starting out in show business, and we remained friends throughout the years. I regret that we didn't have the chance to spend more time together. He was one of the great voices and great people of our time."
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