27 Sep 2012

Singer Andy Williams dies

6:32 am on 27 September 2012

Andy Williams, who charmed audiences with his mellow delivery of songs like Moon River and Can't Take My Eyes Off of You in the 1950s and 60s, has died at his home in the United States. He was 84.

Williams died on Tuesday evening in Branson, Missouri, after a year-long battle with bladder cancer, his family said in a statement.

The singer had 18 gold record and three platinum hits and in his peak years was a regular on television with his own variety series The Andy Williams Show watched by an audience of millions. President Ronald Reagan called his voice "a national treasure".

Andy Williams was born on 3 December 1927 in tiny Wall Lake, Iowa, and was singing professionally with three older brothers at the age of eight. The Williams Brothers had steady work on radio and sang back-up on Bing Crosby's 1944 hit Swinging on a Star, Reuters reports.

He went solo after the group broke up in 1951, drew attention with his appearances on The Tonight Show and began recording. His first No 1 hit Butterfly came in 1957.

Later hits included Born Free, Days of Wine and Roses, Can't Get Used to Losing You, Can't Take My Eyes Off of You and the theme from the 1970 movie hit Love Story.

He came upon his signature song when asked to sing Moon River at the 1962 Academy Awards ceremony. Audrey Hepburn had performed the song in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's.

"I still love it, as many times as I've done it," Williams told a British newspaper in 2007. "It has a great melody and wonderful lyrics. It's not a bad song to have. It could have been Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. We forgot to do it one night and 27 people wanted their money back."

In 1992, Williams built his own 2000-seat dinner theatrein Branson, a city of 10,000 people that had become a regional entertainment center featuring more than 30 theatre, most of which cater to country music acts. He performed there about 20 weeks a year while also putting on a Christmas tour in the US and occasional tour of Britain.

Williams' first wife was Claudine Longet, a Folies Bergere dancer he married in 1961, and they had three children before divorcing. In 1991, he marrried Debbie Haas and they lived in Branson and La Quinta in California.