Legendary crooner Andy Williams died on Tuesday night (September 25th) in his Branson, Missouri home at age 84 after home after battling battle cancer, according to The Los Angeles Times. Williams, who started his career singing with his brothers, is best known for his soft pop hits such as "Moon River," "Can't Get Used To Losing You," "Dear Heart," "Charade," "Music To Watch Girls By," "The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year," and "(Where Do I Begin) Love Story." In addition to hosting the annual Grammy Awards numerous times, his variety program, The Andy Williams Show ran between 1962 and 1971 on NBC.
The Emmy Award winning show featured literally a veritable who's who of the Hollywood elite, and Williams showcased numerous rock, pop, and country acts on his show -- including, the Beach Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ike & Tina Turner, the Rascals, Cass Elliot, Donovan, the Grass Roots, Little Richard, the Bee Gees, Bread, the Carpenters, Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, the Jackson 5, the Righteous Brothers, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, Linda Ronstadt, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and Jerry Lee Lewis, among many others.
But out of all of the acts that graced Williams' stage, one group will always be synonymous with Andy Williams -- the Osmonds. Williams' father discovered the children singing barbershop quartet at Disneyland and urged him to feature them on his show. The Osmonds went on to appear as regulars on The Andy Williams Show from 1962 to 1969.
Donny Osmond posted a tribute to Williams on his Donny.com website:
Andy Williams was an inspiring man in both his music and his life. The clarity and warmth and grace of his singing shaped my love of music as I watched my brothers perform with him on his weekly show. When I finally joined my brothers and toured with Andy as his opening act and back-up singers, I was always impressed with the way he handled an audience. He loved the audience. That was one of the most important lessons he taught me. The best way I could describe his voice was "pure." It was always pleasant to listen to. I will always treasure the memories of when I was seven years old and he took the time to give me several voice lessons. He truly was a great singer and I will ever be indebted to Andy for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my dreams and the opportunity to be personally inspired by such a generous talent.
Although a Republican, Williams supported good friend Robert Kennedy's 1968 bid for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Williams went on to sing two songs at Kennedy's funeral -- "Ave Maria" and "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic." In later years, he frequently accompanied Kennedy's widow, Ethel Kennedy, at public functions, but the pair always denied a romantic relationship. Despite his conservatism, Williams, who had stated that he had experimented with LSD, opposed the Nixon administration's efforts to deport John Lennon in the first half of the '70s.
In 1976, Williams, a year after his divorce, stood by his ex-wife and mother of his children Claudine Longet when she was accused of murdering her lover, alpine ski racer Spider Sabich, in Aspen, Colorado. The shooting was deemed an accident and Longet was escorted to and from court by Williams -- who testified in her defense and reportedly covered her legal fees. Longet was sentenced to only 30 days in jail for misdemeanor negligent homicide. The Rolling Stones went on to record a song about the murder, called "Claudine" during the sessions for 1980's Emotional Rescue, but didn't release it until it saw the light of day last year on the band's deluxe reissue of 1978's Some Girls.
In 1992 Williams opened the Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri, where The Associated Press reported that until recently, he "did two shows a night, six days a week, nine months of the year."
We spoke to Andy Williams several years ago and he shed light on his early connections with the Osmonds: "They came on my show when they were very little; Donny was so little he wasn't even on it. He came on a little later. My father discovered them for me , y'know, they were on an amateur show in Disneyland, on a Saturday morning, on television, local televising. And he saw them and said 'you've got to put them on your show.' I said 'okay' and that's just about the way it happened. I figured I'd better do what my father said, at least, put them on once."
He went on to say: "My father had seen them and my father said, 'you owe these kids something. You and your brothers got some help in the beginning and you've got the help them.' I said 'okay' and I, 'Yes sir.' is actually what I said. I put them on the show and there was so much reaction, so many phone calls, so many letters that the next week I said 'would you like to come back?' They said, 'oh yes, Mr. Williams.' They came back for seven years."
Williams told us that Christmas had always been one of his favorite times of the year, especially since he gets to put on his Christmas show: "'Course I did them all the way through the television series -- the '60s and early-'70s -- and then I used to take it on the road at Christmas time and do a Christmas show for maybe 25 days before Christmas. I did that until I came to Branson."
In 2009 London's Daily Telegraph quoted Williams as accusing President Obama of "following Marxist theory" and "wanting the country to fail." David Letterman had a poke at the crooner shortly thereafter: "Andy Williams. Do you folks remember Andy Williams? Fantastic singer, Andy Williams? He says that President Obama is following Marxist theory. That's what he said. I said, that's interesting. I think I'm going to wait and see what the Andrews Sisters say (laughter)." )
Andy Williams is survived by his second wife, Debbie Meyer and his three children from his first marriage, Robert, Noelle, and Christian. Memorial plans are still pending.