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Andy Williams, Ageless Crooner With Smooth Style, Dies

Andy Williams, who delighted millions with his soothing voice, casual style and dreamy songs like “Moon River,” has died at 84, following a year-long battle with bladder cancer.

Williams’ career took off in 1954, after he became a regular singer on the “Tonight” show then hosted by Steve Allen.

During that time, he recorded such hits as “Canadian Sunset,” “Butterfly,” “Are You Sincere,” “Hawaiian Wedding Song” and “The Village of St. Bernadette.”

His career peaked in the 1960s when he hosted “The Andy Williams Show,” a variety hour in which he introduced musical acts and sang his own songs. The show featured his casual sweater-clad style. He also hosted the Grammys beginning with the inaugural televised edition in 1971 through 1977.

His annual Christmas show was his most popular and his signature songs included “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” which he debuted in 1963.

“It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to do a show I think the audience really loves and needs it during this time of year,” Williams said.

His biggest hit and signature song was “Moon River.” It was only by chance that he came to sing it after his record label initially discouraged the idea. As it turned out Audrey Hepern sang the Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer hit in the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and it became an Oscar contender.

“I was invited to sing ‘Moon River’ on the Oscars show, and Columbia Records decided we ought to rush a ‘Moon River’ album into the stores, because that tune looked like a shoo-in for the ‘best song’ Oscar,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 1989

“So they quickly put out an album, had it in the stores on the day of the Oscars, and the next morning it sold 500,000 copies,” he said.

Despite his low-key style, he was touched by scandal, when his ex-wife Claudine Longet, whom he divorced in 1975, was tried for the shooting death of her boyfriend, professional skier Spider Sabich. She claimed it was an accident, and Williams supported her throughout the 1977 trial. She was convicted of a misdemeanor and spent 30 days in jail.

Williams continued to perform after his show ended and eventually settled in Branson, Mo., where he entertained regularly. In November 2011, he revealed to his audience that he’d been diagnosed with bladder cancer. His agent said he died Tuesday from the disease.

He is survived by his wife Debbie Haas, whom he married in 1991, his three children with Longet, his brothers Don and Dick, and six grandchildren.

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