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Andy Williams, whose soothing baritone and relaxed performing style made him one of America's top pop vocalists and a popular TV variety-show host in the 1960s when he recorded hits such as "Moon River" and "Days of Wine and Roses," has died. He was 84.
Williams, who announced in late 2011 that he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer, died Tuesday at his home in Branson, Mo., his family announced.
The Iowa-born Williams began singing professionally as a boy with his three older brothers in the 1930s, and he went solo when the quartet broke up in the early '50s.
After becoming a regular featured singer on Steve Allen's "Tonight" show in 1954, Williams had hits with songs such as "Canadian Sunset," "Butterfly," "Are You Sincere," "Hawaiian Wedding Song" and "The Village of St. Bernadette."
He continued to turn out hits in the 1960s and '70s, including "Can't Get Used to Losing You," "Dear Heart," "Charade," "Music to Watch Girls By" and "(Where Do I Begin) Love Story."
The singer hosted "The Andy Williams Show" on NBC from 1962 to 1967. After doing three specials a year for two years, he returned to the weekly series from 1969 to 1971.
"The Andy Williams Show" won three Emmy Awards, and its casual, sweater-wearing host received two Emmy nominations.
"The Andy Williams Show" featured established entertainers such as Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Jonathan Winters and Phyllis Diller as well as newer talents such as Linda Ronstadt, the Mamas and the Papas, Elton John and the Jackson 5.
A popular feature of Williams' TV program was the annual Christmas show, on which he would be surrounded by his own family members.
Williams said he never tired of singing "Moon River," whose melody he considered "beautiful" and whose lyrics he called "timeless."
"You wouldn't believe how 'Moon River' became a hit," he said in a 1989 interview with the Chicago Tribune. "I was having dinner with [songwriters] Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, who had just finished recording the movie 'Breakfast at Tiffany's,' with Audrey Hepburn singing 'Moon River' out on the balcony with a guitar.
"So Mancini and Mercer played this song for me, which I thought was great. But my record company was really into singles then, and they said: 'I don't think phrases like 'my Huckleberry friend' will make it with the kids - they won't know what it means.' "
But about four weeks before the 1962 Academy Awards program, he recalled, "I was invited to sing 'Moon River' on the Oscars show, and Columbia Records decided we ought to rush a 'Moon River' album into the stores, because that tune looked like a shoo-in for the 'best song' Oscar.
"So they quickly put out an album, had it in the stores on the day of the Oscars, and the next morning it sold 500,000 copies."
The son of a railroad mail clerk, Williams was born Dec. 3, 1927, in Wall Lake, Iowa. In 1961, he married Paris-born Claudine Longet, then a young Las Vegas dancer, with whom he had three children. They were divorced in 1975.Williams' survivors include his second wife, Debbie; his three children, Robert, Noelle and Christian; six grandchildren; and brothers Don and Dick.