Farewell Andy Williams, Nelson Muntz’s Favorite singer
Legendary crooner Andy Williams—the man whose rendition of Mancini’s "Moon River" could soften even the hardest of hearts, the cornerstone of the neon streets of Branson, Missouri—passed away today after a battle with bladder cancer. He was 84.
Williams’ talent, hard work and commitment to his fans—he was still performing prior to his cancer diagnosis, and planned to return to the stage after treatment, are among the legacies he leaves. In terms of a cultural legacy, he left us with a number of classic television and entertainment moments. Here are just a few of them.
Williams’ TV variety show, appropriately named The Andy Williams Show, lasted nearly a decade and featured a variety of performers, including actor and comedian Dick Van Dyke, Bobby Darin and comedian Jonathan Winters, along with comedian Janos Prohaska as "The Cookie Bear," which was perhaps a spiritual precursor to SNL‘s Land Shark. Williams would be part of the action as well as host, kicking out the (slow) jams like "Can’t Take My Eyes Off You."
When variety shows began to fade out, Williams found a way to adapt—instead of the regular shows, he went the route of the Christmas special.
Other than "Moon River," "Born Free" is probably the song most strongly associated with Williams. Although his version of the Oscar-winning ballad from the heartwarming 1966 film about the adventures of Elsa the lioness did not fare as well as Roger Williams’ piano and choir arrangement heard on the film’s soundtrack, Williams’ version has appeared in a number of places, including the soundtrack to Showtime drama Dexter, a rather tongue-in-cheek replaying on America’s crazy uncle Rush Limbaugh’s "Animal Rights Report," followed by gunfire (the record label later put a stop to that) and various montages of majestic animals on YouTube.
Over the course of his career, Williams had a number of collaborators and wasn’t afraid to share the stage, so of course he had to have at least one night singing for Kermit and Miss Piggy on The Muppet Show.
But perhaps one of Williams’ most indelible cultural moments came in a classic episode from the seventh season of The Simpsons. In "Bart on the Road," Bart, Milhouse, geeky Martin Prince and school bully Nelson Muntz go on a road trip to Knoxville, Tennessee for the World’s Fair. On their way, they stop in Branson ("My dad says it’s like Las Vegas if it were run by Ned Flanders," Bart explains.) and, preparing to drive through, stop at the demands of Nelson, who wants to see Andy Williams and threatens harm if his demands are not met. The other three boys sleep through the concert, but the normally brutish Nelson is wide-eyed and grinning. Truly, Williams touched us all.