HE was the silky-voiced crooner who was still thrilling his fans well into his eighties.
But yesterday it emerged that Andy Williams, one of the all-time classic American singers, had died aged 84, after a year-long battle with bladder cancer.
The news marked the end of a career spanning eight decades, from performances as an eight-year-old at church events in his native Iowa.
He was immortalised through songs such as Moon River, Music to Watch Girls Go By and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, had three platinum-selling albums, and won three Emmys with his hit television show.
Williams, who shot to fame in 1957, was once described by US president Ronald Reagan as a national treasure and he was famously close to the Kennedys.
He was discovered by a new generation of music fans in 1999 after his hits began to be used in adverts.
Born Howard Andrew Williams in 3 December, 1927, he began performing with his older brothers Dick, Bob and Don in the Presbyterian church choir, before they landed a regular slot on the local radio station.
In his memoirs, Williams remembered himself as a shy boy who concealed his insecurity “behind a veneer of cheek and self-confidence”.
“I loved singing and I loved singing with my brothers,” he said. “We had a very nice, wonderful family life. I just didn’t have any childhood.”
The Williams family relocated to California and the brothers hit the big time when they sang backing vocals on the Oscar-winning Bing Crosby hit Swinging on a Star in the 1944 film Going My Way.
When his three older brothers decided to pursue other careers. Williams initially struggled as a solo act and was so poor at one point that he resorted to eating food intended for his two dogs.
After a spell singing in New York nightclubs, he got his big break on TV when he was asked to be the in-house singer on The Tonight Show. That led to him landing his own TV show, which ran until 1971.
Although Moon River was his signature tune throughout his career, and he sang it at the Academy Awards, it was never released as a single.
However, his hits included Butterfly, Can’t Get Used to Losing You, The Hawaiian Wedding Song, Days of Wine and Roses and the title song from the tearjerking film Love Story.
Among the acts to appear on his TV show were the Beach Boys, the Temptations, Elton John, Smokey Robinson and the Osmonds. Williams once said: “The 1960s were probably my peak years. My show was a hit, and I was releasing three albums a year. When the singer-songwriters came along, that’s when everything changed.”
He also recalled: “The old cliche says that if you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t there. Well, I was there all right, but my memory of them is blurred – not by any drugs I took but by the relentless pace of the schedule I set myself.”
In 1962, Williams married Claudine Longet, a French actress and singer, with whom he had three children before their divorce in 1975.
He had his only brush with scandal in 1976, when Longet shot and killed her then lover, skiing champion Spider Sabich. Longet, who said it was an accident, spent only a week in jail. Williams stood by her, escorting her to the court, giving evidence for her and providing support for her and their children,
Noelle, Christian and Robert.
Williams continued to perform even after announcing his cancer diagnosis on stage in 2011.
Williams, who passed away at his home in Missouri on Tuesday night, is survived by his second wife, Debbie, and his three
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