Entertainment & Arts

Andy Williams mourned at star-studded tribute

Andy Williams
Image caption Williams' songs included Moon River, Butterfly, Can't Get Used to Losing You and Music To Watch Girls By

Fans and celebrities have paid tribute to singer Andy Williams at a memorial in his adopted home-town of Branson, Missouri.

The Osmonds, Bob Newhart and Williams' wife Debbie were among those who spoke at the star's Moon River Theater.

Others sent video tributes, including comedian Bill Cosby and Ethel Kennedy, who recalled swooning as she once danced with the singer.

Williams, known for songs such as Music To Watch Girls Go By, died last month.

The 84-year-old's health had failed him after he was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2011.

Image caption "He was the one that got The Osmonds started," said Merrill Osmond (right) at the service

He started out in showbusiness with his three brothers as The Williams Quartet, and sang backing vocals on Bing Cosby's Wishing On A Star in 1944.

His solo career received a boost in 1956, when the swing song Canadian Sunset reached number seven in the US singles chart.

In 1962, he started The Andy Williams Show, which was broadcast around the world and went on to win three Emmys. His annual Christmas specials, featuring Williams dressed in colourful sweaters singing festive favourites, were a staple of US television schedules.

"Christmas is never going to be the same to me," said entertainer Bob Newhart, who choked up with emotion at Sunday's memorial.


Attended by more than 1,000 people, the tribute started as an invitation-only event but tickets were released to the public after popular demand.

"He just had a way of connecting to folks," Branson Mayor Raeanne Presley told local news channel KY3. "He was a part of their weddings and celebrations. They watched him on TV for so many years and then watched him here. Everyone has their own personal memory. That's why they are here."

The service began with an extended video montage from The Andy Williams show, before The Lennon Sisters shared their memories of the singer and sang The Lord's Prayer.

They were followed by Anthony Gigliotti, who spoke as a representative of Williams' fan club.

"For his fans, his music is the tapestry of our lives - it can soothe life's difficult moments, help to celebrate the glorious ones," he said.

Image caption More than 1,000 people attended the Moon River Theater in Missouri, which Williams ran until his death

Music was the cornerstone of the service, with The Gatlin Brothers singing Heaven's Jubilee and Greatly Blessed, while Williams' brother Dick performed Goodbye Old Friend, drawing a standing ovation.

The Osmonds, who were given their big break by Williams, appeared to share their memories of their time on his TV show, before singing their tear-jerker Remember Me, with the refrain: "Anytime it feels like you can't make it through, remember me and I'll be with you".

Williams' widow Debbie shared a video she had made about the couple's life together. She recalled the day they met and discovered there was "such a thing as love at first sight."

The ceremony ended as it began, with Williams on a video screen singing May Each Day, with the closing lines: "May each day of your life be a good day. And good night."

As the video faded, the theatre lights were extinguished and the audience applauded.

A programme for the service said: "Thank you for being a part of the 'Celebration of Life' for our husband, father, friend and consummate entertainer. Andy Williams memory and talent will live forever in our hearts."

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