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American singing legend Andy Williams dies at 84

CHICAGO--American crooner Andy Williams, whose string of hits like “Moon River” and annual Christmas TV shows made him a national treasure, has died aged 84 after losing his battle with cancer.

Wildly popular in the 1960s, with 18 gold and three platinum records to his name, the clean-cut master of easy listening and the sentimental soundtrack signed what at the time was the biggest U.S. recording contract.

“Legendary singer Andy Williams passed away last night (Tuesday) at home in Branson, Missouri following a year long battle with bladder cancer, it was announced by his family,” his publicist said.

Born in Wall Lake, Iowa, a son of a railroad worker, Howard Andrew Williams sang in his family's church choir with bothers Bob, Dick and Don — setting off on what was to become a 75-year professional singing career.

After World War II, they joined entertainer Kay Thompson in her innovative and sophisticated nightclub act. In his 2009 memoir “Moon River and Me,” Williams admitted a long affair with Thompson, 18 years his senior, as she coached him professionally.

On his way to earning more gold albums than any other solo performer bar Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis and Elvis Presley, Williams won an Oscar for his rendition of “Moon River” in the 1961 hit film “Breakfast at Tiffanys.”

NBC signed up the silky-voiced singer to host his own show tailored for “adult contemporary” musicians with similar stylings.

“The Andy Williams Show” ran from 1962 to 1971, making the singer a household name across America and allowing him to introduce acts to the world, including the Osmond Brothers.

A frequent host of the Grammys and Golden Globes, Williams was also known for his television Christmas specials, and in later years, decked out in his trademark red cardigan, he became an annual fixture in American homes.

His 1963 classic “It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” a celebration of the holiday season, remains a Christmas staple on radio playlists around the world.

President Ronald Reagan once described Williams' distinctive mellow voice as a “national treasure.”

Williams is survived by wife Debbie and three children Robert, Noelle and Christian, all from his first wife, French-born dancer Claudine Longet.

He and Longet divorced in 1975 and the following year she was charged with fatally shooting her ski racer boyfriend Spider Sabich in Aspen. Williams stood by her side throughout the trial. He wed Debbie Meyer in 1991.

Williams was a close friend of Bobby Kennedy and was present when the Democratic presidential candidate was assassinated by Palestinian Arab Sirhan Sirhan in June 1968.

He solemnly sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic” at Kennedy's funeral at the request of his widow Ethel.

Williams' golden period saw a string of hits including “Butterfly,” “Can't Get Used to Losing You,” “Happy Heart,” and “Where Do I Begin,” the theme song from the 1970 blockbuster film, “Love Story.”

He achieved success overseas, notably in Britain, where his 1968 version of Frankie Valli's “Can't Take My Eyes Off You” reached number 5 in the charts and made the soundtrack of the 2001 hit film “Bridget Jones's Diary.”

His 1967 recording of “Music to Watch Girls By” was a surprise hit in Britain when it was re-released to a new young TV audience in 1999 after being featured in a series of television ads.

At the height of his fame, in 1973, Williams also sang the national anthem at Super Bowl VII in Los Angeles.

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Crooner Andy Williams succumbs to cancer at 84
In this May 12, 1961 file photo, Andy Williams performs a song on a television show. Emmy-winning TV host and “Moon River” crooner Williams died Tuesday night, Sept, 25, at his ...

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