Friday, September 28, 2012

Andy Williams -- "Can't Get Used to Losing You" (1963)

Called up some girl I used to know
After I heard her say "Hello"
Couldn't think of anything to say
Since you're gone it happens every day

Andy Williams died of cancer on Tuesday, September 25.  He was 84 years old.

I had no thought of featuring one of his songs on 2 or 3 lines until one of my oldest and dearest friends paid tribute to him on Facebook.  Several other old friends chimed in, and I decided to take a closer look at his life and discography.

Andy Williams recorded 42 studio albums and a number of compilation and live albums.  A dozen of them made the Billboard pop album top ten, and 18 of them went gold -- that gave him more gold albums than any solo performer except Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Mathis.  His television variety show was a big hit in the sixties, and he headlined at Caesars Palace for years.  

In 1991, Andy's brother Don -- who managed Ray Stevens -- invited him to Branson, Missouri to see Stevens perform at his new theater there.  Williams opened his "Moon River Theater" in Branson the next year.  Almost all the other acts in Branson at that time were country-western entertainers, but Williams's success led pop stars like Tony Orlando, Wayne Newton, and the Osmonds to Branson.

Williams's theater was like nothing else in Branson (which has plenty of tacky architecture).  It was designed to blend in with the rugged Ozark Mountain landscape, and incorporates natural elements so successfully that it was featured in Architectural Digest.

Moon River Theatre grounds
Williams was a serious art collector, and his theater features artworks by modern-art icons like Claes Oldenburg, Jackson Pollock, Paul Klee, Henry Moore, and Andy Warhol. 

I can't resist embedding this brief excerpt from an episode of The Simpsons featuring a trip by Bart and his pals to Branson, where the brutish Nelson insists they take in the Andy Williams show.  The rest of the boys can barely stay awake, but Nelson sits transfixed as Williams sings "Moon River."  (The video quality is horrible, and the voiceover is in Spanish, which makes the whole thing even more surreal than usual.)

Andy Williams' signature song, of course, is "Moon River," the Johnny Mercer-Henry Mancini song that was sung by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's.  It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year, and Williams performed it live at the Academy Awards ceremonies in 1962.  

But his record company didn't think his recording would have any appeal to teenagers, so they never released it as a single! 

Williams recorded a host of other songs from movies -- including "Days of Wine and Roses," "On the Street Where You Live" (from My Fair Lady), "The Shadow of Your Smile" (The Sandpiper), "Somewhere My Love" (Dr. Zhivago), "Where Do I Begin" (Love Story), and "Speak Softly Love" (The Godfather).

Williams had hits with cover versions of several pop songs that are identified more with other performers -- like "Music to Watch Girls By" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off You."  (His version of the former song -- originally recorded by the Bob Crewe Generation -- made it to the top ten in the UK recently when it was in a Fiat television ad there.)

Williams performing in Branson
Any Williams only had one single that reached number one on the Billboard pop charts -- "Butterfly," from 1957.  I had never heard that song, and I'm betting that you haven't either.  He sings it in a very Presley-esque style, and it sounds nothing like his later recordings.

Given that we're gearing up for an election, I should note that Williams was a close friend of Bobby Kennedy.  He sang "Battle Hymn of the Republic" at his funeral at Ethel Kennedy's request.  

But Williams always considered himself a Republican, and has been quoted making scathing remarks about President Obama.

Williams married Folies BergĂ©re dancer Claudine Longet in 1961 -- he was 32 and she was 18.  She enjoyed considerable success as an actress and singer until she shot and killed her boyfriend, Olympic skier Spider Sabich, in Aspen in 1976.  (She and Williams had divorced the year before.)

Claudine Longet and Andy Williams
Williams escorted his ex-wife to the courthouse every day during her trial, which resulted in her being convicted of criminal negligence (a misdemeanor) and spending only 30 days in jail.  Many eyebrows were raised later when it became known that Longet was romantically involved with her defense attorney, who was married at the time.  The couple later married and still live in Aspen.

Williams loved golf, and was the celebrity host of the "Andy Williams San Diego Open" PGA Tour event from 1968 through 1988.

Golfer Tom Watson with Williams
I originally planned to feature -- what else -- "Moon River" in this post.  For one thing, that song is virtually synonymous with Andy Williams.  For another, I vividly remember singing it with either my junior high or high school chorus.  (I don't think I could forget the lyrics if I tried.) 

But I decided to feature Andy Williams's second-biggest single after "Butterfly" -- his #2 hit from 1963, "Can't Get Used to Losing You," which is the first song of his I remember hearing on the radio.  

"Can't Get Used to Losing You" was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, a famed Brill Building songwriting duo responsible for "A Teenager in Love," "Save the Last Dance for Me," "This Magic Moment," and many other hits.  

I think Andy Williams owned this song as much as he owned "Moon River."  The song and the arrangement fit his vocal style perfectly:

Click here if you'd like to buy the song from Amazon.

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