Page 3 Profile: Andy Williams, Singer

  • @johnhenrywalsh

A final album on the cards?

Sadly not. Andy Williams, the most clean-cut of the crooner generation, has died of cancer aged 84. "We're after the same rainbow's end/ Waitin' round the bend/ My huckleberry friend/ Moon river and me"… Millions of devotees of high-class schmaltz will surely hum the beautiful but lyrically inscrutable "Moon River" when they hear the news.

He was the ideal accompaniment to doing the housework...

His light tenor voice lacked passion but breathed romance. "You're Just Too Good to Be True" and "Can't Get Used to Losing You" were the epitome of easy listening. Dean Martin called it "musical milk and cookies". The music suited Williams's bland good looks and easy manner. "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," he once said.

How did he get his break?

Williams was born in a small town in Iowa where, he used to joke, so little happened that crowds would gather to watch someone get a haircut. He first sang in public with his three brothers, spurred on by their insurance-salesman father Jay. But the teenage Andy's heart wasn't in it. "I didn't really enjoy singing," he said, "until I started singing alone."

A flash in the pan?

Far from it. The extraordinary thing about Williams's career is that it survived the rock '*' roll era, when guitar bands, aggression and high camp eclipsed his peers Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. His first success came in 1956, the same year as Elvis Presley; but he hit his stride singing "Moon River" in the 1961 Audrey Hepburn movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's. He went on to make 18 gold and three platinum albums.

And afterwards?

In 1992 he settled in Branson, Missouri, where he built the $13m Andy Williams Moon River Theatre. He performed there six days a week, nine months of the year, until slowed down by illness. He made the everyday sound romantic, and whatever a "huckleberry friend" might be, you felt he might be yours.