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The Hardline noted Andy Williams' passing yesterday. I won't go so far as to say they were in favor of it, but I was mildly -- only mildly -- startled by the utter contempt that they showed for the man.
I can't deny that Andy's repertoire sounds pretty bland to a generation who experienced almost nothing but rock-and-roll from the beginning of their musical awareness. The arrangements were blah. He pretty much stuck to the melody and the beat. Maybe that takes Andy out of the realm of "artist" and leaves him stuck in the "entertainer" realm. Okay.
I'll just offer another perspective.
First, the man had amazing pipes and kept them in shape for years. As opposed to a tremendous amount of today's pop music -- which, by the way, modern science has definitively established as more boring and tedious than in the past -- the Great American Songbook (that's Sinatra territory, for those unfamiliar with the phrase) is musically sophisticated, and, quite simply, incomparable popular music. "Moon River" is a difficult song to sing, which I know because I have done it, and thank Jah it was a noisy saloon, a boomy mic, and a tolerant accompanist. Andy sang that and many more songs with a deceptive and flawless ease, if not trailblazing originality. He quite simply had a beautiful voice with great range, perfect intonation, and an incomparable warmth and clarity.
Here are some things you may not know about Andy Williams, and while they aren't going to convince any scoffers that he wasn't a bland warbler, they may elevate your respect for the man just a bit.
-- In the early 1970's Williams was an early and vocal opponent of the Nixon Administration's efforts to deport John Lennon.
-- Williams was the first television host of the Emmys, a chore he performed from 1971 to 1977.
-- He campaigned for Robert Kennedy and was with the campaign at the hotel the night Bobby was murdered. He sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" at the funeral, at Ethyl's request.
-- He was the first non-country artist to open a theater in Branson.
-- "Moon River" has been covered by R.E.M., the Killers, and Dr. John, among many others.
-- The range of talents on his show went well beyond The Osmonds: Williams's show showcased black talent on the teevee, featuring the Temptations, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and the Supremes. In 1970, Michael Jackson was a sensation at age 12 on his show doing "I Want You Back" with the Jackson 5. (Some of the YouTube versions of this say that it's "live," but it looks synced to me. Still.)
|Michael on Andy|
The Mamas and the Papas and Elton John also appeared on the show, as did:
Remember, this was the late Sixties and early Seventies -- today's punch lines were yesterday's groundbreaking performers.
-- When Williams signed his new recording contract in the 1960's, it was the richest in history.
-- When his ex-wife Claudine Longet, mother of his three children, was on trial for the murder of skier Spider Sabich, Williams stood by her side and escorted her to and from court every day.
-- He had 18 gold and three platinum albums.
-- He was a noted collector of modern art.
All right, all right, this won't make you like the man's music if you didn't like it before. But he was an astonishing presence on the musical scene for decades, and a good guy. You can think he stands for everything mayonnaise in American culture, and you won't get a big argument from me, but a huge talent and fine life like that deserves our respect. A moment, if you please
And make ready that third bedroom, okay?