Moon River And Me - Andy Williams
The remarkable life story of the legendary singer, from impoverished Iowa farm boy to superstardom.
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Review of "Moon River And Me - Andy Williams"
2000-2015, 886 reviews. Thanks all - it was fun while it lasted, but nothing lasts forever.
Andy Williams was one of those singers whose appeal crossed generations. For most of the 1960s he was the ultimate king of easy listening, a successful recording artist who had his own long-running television show, a kind of American Val Doonican. Although he went out of favour for a while, the pendulum swung back and in his twilight years he became an icon again. This memoir appeared in 2009, three years before his death at the age of 84.
The bookSo many showbiz stars seem to have come from relatively humble beginnings, and Howard Andrew Williams was one of them. The first few pages tell the story of a far from prosperous yet happy family life, with music an abiding passion among the brothers. He was not even in his teens when they formed a group, The Williams Brothers, who worked extensively on radio, in films and as a nightclub attraction. His solo career began in earnest in 1953, soon after they went their separate ways.
Perhaps I should add at this point where I stand on the fan (or not) scale. I’ve always admired him as a singer, although in my teens when he was at the peak of his chart career, I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of his singles I really liked. But he’s one of those acts you grow into, in a sense, with age – and if it comes to a bit of ‘easy’, he’d be close to the top of my preferred list. I very soon found myself warming to him more than ever as I read this book. There’s the slightly self-deprecating, modest ‘how did all this happen to me’ feel as he tells his life story. Sometimes he makes it sound effortlessly easy, at other times he reminds the reader that it was often a matter of hard work, a determination to prove himself that got him where he did. There were setbacks, especially when his TV show finished and his record label Columbia dropped him, partly as his records were no longer selling and partly because the young guns on the management side felt he was a relic of a bygone age.He seems to have come through his career with very little scandal attached to his name. Perhaps the closest shave he had was when his ex-wife Claudine was charged with homicide after shooting her lover dead in what was apparently an unfortunate firearms accident and he stood solidly by her throughout the investigation and court case. He is honest enough about the reasons for the breakdown of their marriage not long before, admitting that he had concentrated too hard on his career and not enough on his wife and their children. On a lighter note, he recounts another event that might have had the wrong repercussions. While on tour in Norway he was taken on a night off for an evening’s entertainment which turned out to be a live sex show. Very nice, you might think, but he was aware that the press would have a field day if the story got out, and bang would go his career as a family entertainer. Luckily it never did.
Some of the most interesting chapters in this book deal with the ways in which his path crossed that of other artists. On Frank Sinatra he is remarkably fair, agreeing wholeheartedly that he was one of the greatest singers but that he could be incredibly cruel and that he mixed with some pretty unsavoury types. He pays generous tribute to the Osmonds, to whom he gave their first big break on his TV show. There is a reference to meeting the gracious, unfailingly polite Elvis Presley, and his entourage who would fall around with exaggerated laughter every time he said something faintly amusing. To him it was a sharp reminder that if you start believing your own publicity, you could soon convince yourself that you were the most wonderful, wittiest person on the planet. There is a glimpse of an unknown singer whom he was persuaded against his initial inclinations to feature as a guest on his show, a small tubby singer/pianist with horn-rimmed glasses encrusted with rhinestones. Elton John did not remain unknown for long, of course. Finally he talks about sharing a table at the Grammy awards with John Lennon (on whose behalf he had publicly spoken when the Nixon administration threatened him with deportation in 1972), David Essex and an unsettlingly androgynous David Bowie. Immediately afterwards John sent him a not very well-typed letter offering him a demo of one of his newest songs to record. Sadly Andy felt it was not really right for him.Perhaps most importantly, he tells of his friendship with Bobby Kennedy and the tragedy of June 1968, the latter’s assassination. Andy writes with admiration for the friend and politician who championed the rights of the underdog and the less well-off, and boldly risked alienating much potential support because of his campaigning against tobacco on the grounds that it was wrong to let their kids get hooked on cigarettes. He maintains that his violent death, within five years of the killing of his brother the President, just after he won the California primary and had the Democratic nomination within his grasp, was a severe blow for America.
If I have one criticism to make of this book, it is that Andy devotes very little attention to his music. He mentions his love of the song ‘Moon River’, naturally – the one which, despite his never releasing as a single, more or less became his signature tune. But it would have provided a little more depth to the book had he written in detail of some of his other hits, how he came to choose the songs he recorded, how much input he had into the musical arrangements, and so on.
OverallEven so, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. At 300 pages the length is about right, and the author came across as one of those stars who nevertheless kept his feet on the ground. On the last page, he noted that even in his early eighties he had given no thought to retiring, and that he would be happy to leave the stage for the last time in a wooden box. Sadly a losing battle with cancer two years later put paid to that.
Although it may be a little ‘music-lite’, in all other aspects I found this one of the most pleasantly–written showbiz autobiographies I had read. And although it helps, I’d say that you don’t have to be a huge fan of Mr W to enjoy it.
Product Information : Moon River And Me - Andy Williams
Manufacturer's product descriptionThe remarkable life story of the legendary singer, from impoverished Iowa farm boy to superstardom.
Genre: Arts & Music
Subgenre: The Arts
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Release Date: 28.09.2009
Author: Andy Williams
Title: Moon River And Me
Listed on Ciao since: 16/02/2011