September 27, 2012 10:06:55 AM
BRANSON, Mo. -- For the older -- OK, squarer -- side of the generation gap, Andy Williams was part of the soundtrack of the 1960s and '70s, with easy-listening hits like "Moon River," the "Love Story" theme and "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" from his beloved Christmas TV specials.
The singer known for his wholesome, middle-America appeal was the antithesis of the counterculture.
"The old cliche says that if you can remember the 1960s, you weren't there," Williams 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."
The 84-year-old entertainer, who died Tuesday night at his Branson home following a yearlong battle with bladder cancer, outlasted many of the decade's rock stars and fellow crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. He remained on the charts into the 1970s and continued to perform into his 80s.
Williams became a major star in 1956, the same year as Elvis Presley, with the Sinatra-like swing number "Canadian Sunset." 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 temporarily retired, Williams was in the top 10 with the theme from "Love Story," the Oscar-winning tearjerker. He had 18 gold records, three platinum and five Grammy award nominations.
Williams was also the first host of the live Grammy awards telecast and hosted the show for seven consecutive years, beginning in 1971.