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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Singer and television personality Andy Williams died last night at his home in Branson, Missouri, after a yearlong battle with bladder cancer. Williams will always be remembered for his version of "Moon River." But NPR's Mandalit Del Barco reports the singer had top-10 hits from the 1950s, all the way to the '70s.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: This was the 1960s.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANTI-WAR RALLY)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Stop the war now! Stop the war now! Stop the war...

DEL BARCO: But in the era of anti-war protests and psychedelic rock, another voice reached millions.

(SOUNDBITE OF "THE ANDY WILLIAMS SHOW")

ANDY WILLIAMS: (Singing) Moon River...

(AUDIENCE APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS: (singing) ...wider than a mile...

DEL BARCO: "Moon River" became Andy Williams' signature song. He used it to open his TV variety show. It won him a Grammy. And as he told the "Emmy TV Legends" series, Williams says he sang it at the Oscars.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

WILLIAMS: And it was a big hit. And I became more known for that record - I think - than Jerry Butler did, who had a single on it; or - eventually - even maybe as much as Henry Mancini, who wrote it.

DEL BARCO: With his easy, mellow style and boyish features, Williams had a wholesome appeal for middle America, says University of Southern California professor Josh Kun, who runs the Popular Music Project at the Norman Lear Center.

PROFESSOR JOSH KUN: It was a relief, almost, to hear him. My own grandfather would call his style of music "olden but golden."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES")

WILLIAMS: (Singing) The days of wine and roses...

DEL BARCO: Howard Andrew Williams was born in Iowa, in 1927. As a boy, he performed with his three older brothers at a local Presbyterian church. Their father was their choirmaster, and he got them spots on radio shows in the Midwest - as Andy Williams told NPR in 2009.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

WILLIAMS: We had a show called "It's Time To Shine," sponsored by Griffin shoe polish. (Singing) Bom, bom, bom, bom, it's time to shine...

DEL BARCO: Williams and his brothers made their way to Hollywood, where they eventually wound up backing Bing Crosby in his 1944 movie "Going My Way."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SWINGING ON A STAR")

BING CROSBY: (Singing) Oh, would you like to swing on a star, carry moonbeams home in a jar...

DEL BARCO: After the quartet broke up, Andy Williams struggled as a solo act. But he managed to land a spot on "The Tonight Show" and a record contract; then his own variety shows on TV, which ran from 1959 to 1971.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION SHOW, "THE ANDY WILLIAMS SHOW")

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, Andy Williams.

DEL BARCO: On the show, the crooner introduced the world to the singing Osmond family.

JIMMY OSMOND: Andy was family, he really was. And he was the one that really made it happen for us.

DEL BARCO: Jimmy Osmond was just 3 years old when Williams brought him, his brother Donny, sister Marie, and the rest of the family to TV audiences. For years, they joined Williams' own family on his many TV specials.

OSMOND: We were lucky enough to tour with him all over the world, and be his background singers. And you remember that song, "Aquarius"? Neil Armstrong was also a big Andy Williams fan, and he took "Aquarius" to the moon with him. So Andy even took us to the moon. (LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AQUARIUS")

WILLIAMS: (Singing) Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in...

DEL BARCO: Andy Williams had 18 gold albums; and hits that stretched into the 1970s, like the theme from "Love Story." His clean-cut persona was only connected with scandal once - when his ex-wife, Claudine Longet, shot and killed her lover. After golfing on the celebrity circuit, Williams settled in Branson, Missouri, and built a theater. In 1999, he found himself on the charts again, when his version of "Music to Watch Girls By" was used in a TV commercial.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MUSIC TO WATCH GIRLS BY")

WILLIAMS: (Singing) The boys watch the girls, while the girls watch the boys, who watch the girls go by.

DEL BARCO: Jimmy Osmond.

OSMOND: He was saying, hey, Jimmy - you know - here I am, 70-something years old; and girls are throwing underwear on the stage, at me. (LAUGHTER) And I go, Andy, you still have it.

DEL BARCO: Andy Williams died last night, at his home in Branson. He was 84 years old. Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MUSIC TO WATCH GIRLS BY")

WILLIAMS: (Singing) Guys talk, girl talk, it happens everywhere. Eyes watch, girls walk with tender loving care. It's keeping track of the pack, watching them watching back, that makes the world go round...

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

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