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the otto files

where the classics never go out of style

I was sorry to hear this morning of the passing of Andy Williams. one of the great American crooners. According to reports, he’d been battling bladder cancer for almost a year.

I never followed Andy Williams the way I did Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Mel Torme or Ella Fitzgerald. He was the All-American, apple pie and cold milk kind of personality to whom I never related very well. His talent, however, was undeniable. I’ve come to appreciate him much more in recent years.

Looking at his career and his big hits, I almost feel sorry for the young Andy Williams starting out because although he had some big hits, they weren’t songs in the tradition of the Gershwins or Cole Porters or Irving BerlinsĀ  – Hawaiian Wedding Song, The Village of St. Bernadette and Canadian Sunset. They were rather typical of the sub-par material of the early fifties. Thanks to his talent, however, he hung around long enough to follow in the television footsteps of singers like Bing Crosby and Perry Como as he offered that relaxed, sincere, next-door-neighbor charm that television audiences found so comforting in the turbulent 1960s.

He also stayed around long enough to meet the man whose songs fit him like a glove, Henry Mancini. It was Williams’ rendition of Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s Moon River that really catapulted him to super-stardom. The song became Andy Williams’ theme song and his version will always be considered the quintessential recording of that Oscar winning composition. Williams also recorded Mancini’s Charade and Days of Wine and Roses with great success. Ironically, it was Andy Williams, the white bread, All-American boy who had one of the most successful recordings of Speak Softly Love from the film, The Godfather. And let us not forget, the theme to Love Story. Andy gave us lots and lots of hits to remember.

I remember Andy Williams for his Saturday night variety show when I was a kid. Unfortunately, I don’t remember Andy’s singing nearly as much as I remember Andy and the Bear. Those of you who are old enough will also remember the cookie-obsessed bear.

My only personal connection to Andy Williams, such as it is, comes from the fact that I know Vince Falcone, a very talented arranger/conductor/musician who worked with Andy Williams on many occasions. Falcone was the Musical Director for Frank Sinatra for about ten years during the 1970s and 1980s. My Uncle Bob and Vince have been dear friends for many years. Mr. Falcone was kind enough to arrange my meeting with Frank Sinatra in 1980. In his book, “Frankly Just Between Us,” Falcone has nothing but kind words about Andy Williams who he called “one of the great singers of our time.”

Andy Williams also became very well known for his Christmas shows. Many of great singers have at least one Christmas song that belongs to them. In the case of Andy Williams, that song is The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Williams was truly one of the last representatives of a truly wonderful time in American music and television. He will be missed.

And as I always say, thank God for film and video.

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