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September 26, 2012

'Moon River' crooner Andy Williams dies at age 84

ST. LOUIS (AP) — With a string of gold albums, a hit TV series and the signature "Moon River," Andy Williams was a voice of the 1960s, although not the '60s we usually hear about.

"The old cliche says that if you can remember the 1960s, you weren't there," the singer once recalled. "Well, I was there all right, but my memory of them is blurred — not by any drugs I took but by the relentless pace of the schedule I set myself."

Williams' plaintive tenor, boyish features and easy demeanor helped him outlast many of the rock stars who had displaced him and such fellow crooners as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. He remained on the charts into the 1970s, and continued to perform in his 80s at the Moon River Theatre he built in Branson, Mo.

In November 2011, when Williams announced that he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer, he vowed to return to performing the following year: His 75th in show business.

Williams died Tuesday night at his home in Branson following a yearlong battle with the disease, his Los Angeles-based publicist, Paul Shefrin, said Wednesday. He was 84.

He became a major star the same year as Elvis Presley, 1956, with the Sinatra-like swing "Canadian Sunset," and for a time he was pushed into such Presley imitations as "Lips of Wine" and the No. 1 smash "Butterfly."

But he mostly stuck to what he called his "natural style," and kept it up throughout his career. In 1970, when even Sinatra had given up and (temporarily) retired, Williams was in the top 10 with the theme from "Love Story," the Oscar-winning tearjerker. He had 18 gold records and three platinum, was nominated for five Grammy awards and hosted the Grammy ceremonies for several years.

Movie songs became a specialty, from "Love Story" and "Days of Wine and Roses" to "Moon River." The longing Johnny Mercer-Henry Mancini ballad was his most famous song, even though he never released it as a single because his record company feared such lines as "my huckleberry friend" were too confusing and old-fashioned for teens.

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