Andy Williams, the Grammy-winning singer who died Wednesday at age 84, was controversial in his day. His ultra-smooth crooning style clashed with the emerging rock and roll era. But Williams outperformed the controversy and launched the careers of many other musical artists. His best recordings will live forever.
Growing up in the '60s, it was hard to miss Andy Williams. He was a constant television presence in the '60s and '70s, with a prime time variety show and annual Christmas specials. His easy-listening classic "Moon River" has been covered by R.E.M., the Killers, and Barbara Streisand.
I used to dread "Andy Williams time" growing up. He was my grandmother's favorite singer, and his slow, easy-going songs and gentle voice were completely lost on a small, active child. There was no way I had the patience to sit through "Moon River" or similar songs.
Andy Williams launched many of the most popular groups of the late '60s and early '70s, including the Jackson 5 featuring Michael Jackson, Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Temptations, and the Supremes. The Osmond Brothers got their start on Williams' show, which led to numerous spin-off shows and separate/together careers for Donny and Marie.
Andy Williams kept his show free from controversy, but it wasn't because he only featured traditional, family-oriented artists like the Osmonds. Elton John made his American TV debut on Williams' show, performing "Heaven Help Us All" with Ray Charles, Cass "Mama Cass" Elliott, and Williams.
Williams was a much-loved figure in the recording industry, and was the first host of the Grammy Awards. In addition to starting many new careers on his variety show, he appeared with classic performers like Bing Crosby, Judy Garland and Tony Bennett.
Singers like Michael Buble and Josh Groban don't just owe their style to inspirations like Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. They owe their style to graceful, gracious Andy Williams.
I was too young to appreciate Andy Williams' singing when I was young. Now, listening to his music, I realize how classy and awesome he always was.
He was funny, too. And Elke Sommer was hot!