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Who performed Moon River during Breakfast at Tiffany’s?
Andy Williams dies at the age of 84; the timing of his early 1960s signature hit “Moon River” was no accident. It was first performed by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and was nominated for an Academy Award. However, when the Academy Awards producers asked Williams to perform “Moon River” on the 1962 broadcast, his record label devised a plan.
Williams recorded an album featuring “Moon River” and other “great movie themes” with four weeks to go before airtime. It was rushed into stores on Oscar day and was on its way to becoming a hit by the next morning. Williams, 84, whose soothing baritone and laid-back style made him one of America’s top vocalists from the 1950s to the 1970s, passed away at his Branson, Missouri home on Tuesday, according to his family.
He announced late last year that he had bladder cancer. During the 1960s and 1970s, when rock music was popular, Williams and his silky voice soothed the masses yearning for the familiar rhythms of a bygone era. From 1962 to 1967 and again from 1969 to 1971, with occasional specials in between, “The Andy Williams Show” aired weekly and was reassuringly traditional, at least in its early years.
- Williams was comparable to popular television personalities of the time, including Dinah Shore and Johnny Carson.
- Williams was an approachable and reassuring presence, often donning his signature sweaters while performing hits like “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Born Free.” Three Emmys were awarded to “The Andy Williams Show,” which was taped at NBC in Burbank, and its casual host received two nominations.
Williams stated that he never grew tired of singing “Moon River,” which he described as having a “beautiful” melody and “timeless” lyrics. In 1989, he told the Chicago Tribune, “You would not believe how ‘Moon River’ became a hit.” “I was having dinner with Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, who had just completed recording the film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ with Audrey Hepburn singing ‘Moon River’ with a guitar on the balcony.
- “So Mancini and Mercer played me this song, which I thought was great,” he said, but his record company at the time “was really into singles, and they said, ‘I don’t think phrases like’my Huckleberry friend’ will catch on with the kids — they won’t understand what they mean.'”
- Columbia, his next record label, rushed him into the studio to record “Moon River.”
- The singer hosted “The Andy Williams Show” on NBC from 1962 to 1967, followed by sporadic specials and then weekly episodes from 1969 to 1971.
- “In some cases, when people appear on television, their record sales decrease,” Williams told the Orlando Sentinel in 1991. “My record sales seemed to increase.”
“I believe this is because the music is soft and easy to listen to, and does not force itself down anyone’s throat. People find it pleasant and enjoyable, and they go out and purchase the albums.”
- Established entertainers such as Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Jonathan Winters, and Phyllis Diller appeared on “The Andy Williams Show,” along with newer talents such as Linda Ronstadt, the Mamas and the Papas, Elton John, and the Jackson 5.
- Williams also frequently featured the Osmond Brothers, who debuted on the show in 1962 as a “young barbershop harmony group from Ogden, Utah.”
- The annual Christmas special on the popular television show invariably featured Williams surrounded by his family.
The Christmas shows were so well-liked that when the weekly series went off the air, “we received thousands of letters” requesting a return, Williams said later. He returned annually for many years to host Christmas specials and later presented Christmas shows in theaters across the nation.
- In the 1930s, Williams, who was born in Iowa, began singing professionally with his three older brothers before going solo in the early 1950s.
- Williams had hits with songs such as “Canadian Sunset” and “Butterfly” after becoming a regular featured singer on Steve Allen’s “Tonight” show in 1954.
- In the 1960s and 1970s, he continued to produce hits such as “Can’t Get Used to Losing You,” “Dear Heart,” “Charade,” “Music to Watch Girls By,” and “(Where Do I Begin) Love”
Williams was born on December 3, 1927 in Wall Lake, Iowa, to a railroad mail clerk parent. As a young boy, he joined the local Presbyterian church choir alongside his three older brothers, Bob, Don, and Dick. “The very first time he heard his four sons harmonizing together, my father was convinced that we had a future as professional singers,” Williams wrote in his 2009 memoir “Moon River and Me.” In 1936, when Andy was 8 years old, with their father as their manager and “driving force,” the Williams Brothers landed a 15-minute morning show on a Des Moines radio station.
- After relocating to Chicago in 1941 and subsequently to Cincinnati, they experienced comparable success.
- The family moved west in early 1944, and the Williams Brothers quickly received two major breaks in Hollywood: Bing Crosby hired them to sing background vocals on his 1944 hit “Swinging on a Star,” and MGM signed them to a contract.
They performed as a quartet in six forgettable films, including “Kansas City Kitty.” During World War II, while his brothers served in the military, Andy sang in a few other close harmony groups before spending six months in the merchant marine near the war’s conclusion.
- In 1947, the Williams Brothers and singer-comedienne Kay Thompson formed a critically acclaimed nightclub act that toured the United States for several years.
- In 1953, the Williams Brothers disbanded; his older brothers had grown weary of traveling and were establishing their own families.
- Williams sang and appeared in comedy sketches on Steve Allen’s “Tonight” show for more than two years before hosting summer replacement variety series from 1957 to 1959 and launching his long-running NBC variety show in 1962.
In 1961, he wed Claudine Longet, a young Las Vegas dancer who was born in Paris, and together they had three children, Noelle, Christian, and Robert, who were named after their close friend, Senator Robert F. Kennedy. On June 4, 1968, when he won the California presidential primary, the Williamses were present in the suite of Democratic presidential candidate Robert F.
- Ennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
- Shortly after midnight, as they were heading downstairs to meet with Kennedy, the senator was fatally shot.
- Williams performed “Battle Hymn of the Republic” at Kennedy’s funeral.
- He later said it was “probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.” In 2000, he told the Chicago Sun-Times, “It was exhilarating and heartbreaking.” “I recalled that he enjoyed hearing that song at rallies and other campaign events wherever his travels took him.
I began singing it, and then the entire congregation joined in; it was the most moving moment I have ever encountered.” Williams and Longet divorced in 1975, and the following year Longet was charged with the shooting death of her boyfriend, skiing champion Vladimir “Spider” Sabich.
This marked the beginning of a dark chapter in Williams’ personal life. Later, he reported receiving only positive feedback for his support of his ex-wife, who claimed the gun discharged by accident. In 1977, she was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and sentenced to thirty days in jail. In 1981, Williams stated, “People respected me because I stood by her.” “I didn’t believe I did anything noteworthy; I simply carried out my duties.
I was there to care for my children and ensure their well-being, as well as because I love my ex-wife. I was not concerned with my appearance. That was the last thing on my mind.”
- When Caesars Palace opened in Las Vegas in 1966, Williams was the first headliner, and he remained a major draw there for two decades.
- He hosted the Andy Williams San Diego Open under various names for many years.
- While continuing to perform across the country in 1992, he opened the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre in Branson, a country music hub at the time.
In 2004, he told the Vallejo (California) Times-Herald, “I didn’t wish to pretend I was a country singer.” “I intended to be myself. I desired to create a theater that reflected my own sense of elegance and sophistication. So I constructed a similar theater.”
- Even in his eighties, Williams maintained a singing voice that, in the words of one British writer, was “still as silky as lingerie.”
- Williams is survived by his second wife, Debbie
- his three children, Robert, Noelle, and Christian
- six grandchildren
- and his two brothers, Don and Dick.
Andy Williams dies at age 84; the singer of “Moon River”
The lyric ‘Moon river wider than a mile, I’m crossing you in style someday’ seems to resonate with many people. In fact, it was played at my own Mother’s funeral.
What is the meaning behind Moon River?
The Meaning Behind Andy Williams’ “Moon River” “Moon River” had a rich history before first sang it, but his rendition took the classic to a new level. The dreamy song clearly left a strong impression on the artist, as he later named his company, theater, and autobiography after it.
- The song impacted the world just as much as it impacted Williams.
- Although “Moon River” was performed by other phenomenal artists like Audrey Hepburn and Jerry Butler, Williams’ rendition of the song charted exceptionally well despite never being released as a single.
- Moon River” has won a number of awards for its hopeful lyrics and smooth composition, but Andy Williams’ rich tenor voice evidently brought out the very best in the song.
Songwriting Process “Moon River” was originally written by composer Henry Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer for the 1961 film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Mancini revealed in an interview that it only took him about 30 minutes to compose the song. “It had to be in keeping with the character of Holly Golightly, the star character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and I had to bear in mind the limitations of Audrey Hepburn’s voice,” he said.
- I worked the whole song around a simple guitar basis, although the guitar isn’t heard much during the number.” Mercer wrote the lyrics about a real river near his house in Savannah, Georgia.
- His window looked out at the river, and he had many fond memories there.
- The real river was originally called Back River, but it was officially renamed Moon River in honor of the song.
Mercer’s home also became known as the Moon River House. When the song was performed by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it became an instant hit. Hepburn’s performance of “Moon River” won Best Arrangement, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year at the 1962 Grammys, as well as the Oscar for Best Original Song.
- Andy Williams performed “Moon River” for the first time at the same Academy Awards ceremony.
- Lyrical Meaning The lyrics of “Moon River” are simple, but powerful.
- The song runs for a brief two minutes and 24 seconds, and there are only three verses with no true chorus.
- In the song, the river acts as a metaphor for a lover.
It is described as both a dream maker and a heartbreaker in the same line, emphasizing both the delightful and disastrous outcomes of relationships. Even knowing that it could go badly, the narrator is still determined to follow their heart. Moon river, wider than a mile I’m crossing you in style someday Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way The song also expresses the youthful desire for a life of adventure.
- The narrator wants to follow the river to the rainbow’s end, implying that there is some kind of treasure or satisfaction that will come from seeing the world.
- Two drifters, off to see the world There’s such a lot of world to see We’re after the same rainbow’s end Waiting ’round the bend The line, my Huckleberry friend, was not an artistic choice by Mercer, but a nostalgic one.
Mercer revealed in his autobiography that the line was actually a reference to his childhood friend. They used to pick huckleberries near the river together in the summer, and he wanted to include the image in the song. We’re after the same rainbow’s end Waiting ’round the bend My huckleberry friend Moon river, and me Enter Andy Williams After performing “Moon River” at the 1962 Oscars, Williams named his production company and theater in Branson, Missouri after the song.
- He also used it as the theme of his television show, The Andy Williams Show, from 1962 to 1971.
- At the beginning of every episode, he sang the opening bars of the song.
- While Williams never recorded the song as a single, it was featured on his 1962 LP, Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes,
- The album was certified gold just one year later in 1963 for selling over one million units.
Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes topped at No.3 on Billboard charts and sold over two million copies by 1967. In 2002, 74-year-old Williams on the NBC 75th anniversary show. When Williams debuted his autobiography in 2009, he titled it, The book was published just three years before his death in 2012.
Ten years after his passing, Williams’ version of “Moon River” was selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Recording Registry in April 2022. While the song has had an undeniable impact on music and culture, this achievement ensures that it will be written down in history—literally.
Listen to Andy Williams’ “Moon River” below. Photo by David Redfern/Redferns : The Meaning Behind Andy Williams’ “Moon River”