Obituaries by The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Andy Williams, 84, known for his signature hit “Moon River,” died Sept. 25, 2012, following a yearlong battle with bladder cancer.
Williams’ plaintive tenor, boyish features and easy demeanor helped him outlast many of the rock stars who had displaced him and such fellow crooners as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. He remained on the charts into the 1970s, and continued to perform in his 80s at the Moon River Theatre he built in Branson, Mo.
He became a major star the same year as Elvis Presley, 1956, with the Sinatra-like swing “Canadian Sunset.” Williams mostly stuck to what he called his “natural style,” and kept it up throughout his career. Williams earned 18 gold records and three platinum, was nominated for five Grammy awards and hosted the Grammy ceremonies for several years. Movie songs became a specialty, with Williams performing songs in “Love Story,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” “The Godfather” and, of course, his signature “Moon River,” which was used in “Breakfast At Tiffany’s.”
“The Andy Williams Show,” which lasted in various formats through the 1960s and into 1971, won three Emmys and featured Williams alternately performing his stable of hits and bantering casually with his guest stars. It was on that show that Williams introduced the world to the original four singing Osmond Brothers of Utah.
Williams did book some rock and soul acts, including the Beach Boys, the Temptations and Smokey Robinson. On one show, in 1970, Williams sang “Heaven Help Us All” with Ray Charles, Mama Cass and a then-little known Elton John, a vision to Williams in his rhinestone glasses and black cape. But Williams liked him and his breakthrough hit “Your Song” enough to record it himself.
He was born Howard Andrew Williams in Wall Lake, Iowa, on Dec. 3, 1927. In his memoir, Williams remembered himself as a shy boy who concealed his insecurity “behind a veneer of cheek and self-confidence.” Williams began performing with his older brothers Dick, Bob and Don in the local Presbyterian church choir. When Andy was 8, Williams’ father brought the kids for an audition on Des Moines radio station WHO’s Iowa Barn Dance. They were initially turned down, but Jay Emerson Williams and the young quartet kept returning and they were finally accepted.
DUARTE, Calif. (AP) — Motown record producer and songwriter Frank Wilson, who worked with the Supremes, the Temptations and Marvin Gaye, died Sept. 27, 2012. He was 71.
Wilson, who later became a minister, wrote or co-wrote the hits “Love Child” for Diana Ross and The Supremes, “Chained” for Marvin Gaye and “All I Need” for the Temptations. After Eddie Kendricks left the Temptations, Wilson produced his 1973 hit “Keep On Truckin’ (Part 1).” Wilson also helped write “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” a 1967 Top 40 single for Motown’s Brenda Holloway that soon became an even bigger hit for Blood, Sweat and Tears. His “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do),” a 1965 single on which he performed but which was never released, became an underground hit in Britain in the 1970s. A rare copy of the song sold for $39,294 in 2009, making it the most expensive single ever auctioned, according to Guinness World Records.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — R.B. Greaves, a pop singer whose “Take a Letter, Maria” hit No. 2 in 1969, died of prostate cancer Sept. 27, 2012. He was 68.
A nephew of the legendary R&B singer Sam Cook, Greaves was born on a U.S. Air Force base in the former British Guyana. Living in the United Kingdom in the 1960s, he recorded several soul singles as Sonny Childe. It was after moving to the United States that he scored his biggest hit as R.B. Greaves.
Greaves also broke into the Top 40 in 1970 with his version of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David tune, “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me.”
His career flagged in the 1970s, however.
LONDON (AP) — Acclaimed session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan, who played on dozens of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, died Oct. 2, 2012. Sullivan, 71, had suffered from heart disease and diabetes and had stopped performing live recently because of his health problems.
Sullivan learned guitar as a teenager; he was known for his mastery of a wide variety of styles, from hard rock to country to blues. Along with Jimmy Page, who would later star in Led Zeppelin, Sullivan was one of the most in-demand session guitarists of his era. His website lists sessions with the Tom Jones, Marianne Faithfull, David Bowie, Gerry and the Pacemakers and many others. Sullivan played with many of the biggest names in British pop at the height of the “Swinging London” era and claimed to have played on more than 1,000 singles that entered the British charts.
Sullivan’s website said he joined his first band, the Wildcats, at age 17, in 1958, which he described as “the early days of rock and roll in this country.”
“I am a very lucky man,” he said on his website. “I am living my life with my hobby as my profession.” GM