Andy Williams left us late last month after a brief battle with bladder cancer that began in 2011. He had been largely quiet for most of the past 30 years, his easy-listening style eventually shouted down by the new forms of popular music that were being born just as his career was also hitting its stride. But from the mid 1950s through the mid 1970s, he was without a doubt one of America's premiere practitioners of popular song.
|The Williams Brothers|
Despite a 20-year age difference, Andy and Kay became romantically involved, and by the 1950s, Andy had gone his separate way from his brothers. It was Kay's show-biz connections that helped kick-start his solo career in the mid 1950s, landing him a regular singing spot on the original Tonight Show with Steve Allen, as well as his first record contract.
He developed an interesting working relationship with composer Henry Mancini, regularly performing his songs at the Oscars, including "Moon River" and "Days of Wine and Roses". Although he never had hit singles with them, he did record them, and it was "Moon River" in particular with which he would become most identified for the rest of his career and life. It was also during the 1960s that Williams developed his deep friendship with Robert and Ethel Kennedy--Williams was with Kennedy when he was assassinated in 1968, and even sang at RFK's funeral.
More than anything, Andy Williams was a feel-good entertainer. He may not have had the artistic chops of other practitioners of popular song, or the respect of the musical elite, but he kept the tradition alive during an era that made singers like him seem progressively more "uncool" in the eyes of mainstream America. His warm, earnest voice will be greatly missed.