RIP Andy Williams, we hardly knew you

Caption on his site: "Andy was always known for his fabulous sweaters at his Christmas Show."
Caption on his site: "Andy was always known for his fabulous sweaters at his Christmas Show."

Andy Williams, we hardly knew you. To a generation you're the man in tinted glasses on dozens of albums we wouldn't buy for a quarter, yet you were an enormous figure in American music from your earliest hit, a hillbilly cat cover of "Butterfly" inspired by Elvis, to your long, graceful goodbye in Branson, Missouri.

You are probably not on as many iPods as albums, but hopefully coverage of your passing away at 84 in Branson today will get you there. You were an albums artist more than a singles artist and a TV star -- things that don't translated well in "oldies" radio or Twitter. There's never been a movie about you and your brothers' barbershop quartet back in Wall Lake, Iowa, or a retro fad around your '60s pop albums. You rule the airwaves at Christmastime, but that's really the only place we know your songs.

Most young people don't know you consoled a mourning nation with a your performance of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" at Robert F. Kennedy's requiem mass at St. Patrick's cathedral. Your modest remark, "The only way I got through church that day was by saying, 'This is my job,'" a perfect demonstration of the "natural style" that made you a favorite of so many... of our grandparents.

It's too bad there aren't reruns of The Andy Williams Show. Then we might understand why there are so many of your records at estate sales. Maybe it should be on Netflix.

You were the kind of class act we don't see on TV anymore, and And I guess you might have made headlines when you said the President was "following Marxist theory," but I doubt it. I didn't see it on The Daily Show. Besides, one of the things that we never knew about you is that you stood up for John Lennon when the Nixon Administration was working overtime to get him deported. Or that you campaigned for Kennedy in 1968 and for McGovern four years later, even though you always said you were a Republican.
And we didn't know that you were married to Claudine Longet, whose records are in Mom's collection. Or that she shot her boyfriend after you were divorced and you accompanied her to court every day during her trial.

That would have been awesome shit to read about in the line at the grocery store, Mr. Williams. I guess it's too bad we never met you, now that we know you struggled to start a career just like those still-cool stars brought back to life in biopics, like Johnny Cash and Ray Charles. I read you were once so poor you ate your dogs' food. I'll bet Nana knew their names.

We're going to go to the basement and get out her records. Bet she has one with the song you did on The Simpsons. You said in your autobiography that being on the Simpsons was "an accolade that every entertainer craves above all others." Come to think of it, the first time we saw you was on TV.

Rest in peace, Andy Williams.

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