CIRCA 1962: Singer Andy Williams poses for a publicity photo circa 1962. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Andy Williams represented a Middle American outlook in music, as well as in politics. Williams, who died Wednesday of bladder cancer, got his start singing in the choir of his Presbyterian church in Iowa. That made him conservative, not only as an entertainer, but as a voter.
In the 1960s, The Andy Williams Show, which brought easy listening music to America every Sunday night, bridged the era of New York’s Rat Pack and San Francisco’s hippies, and was a wholesome Midwestern alternative to both.
Although Williams always identified himself as a Republican, he made an exception for Robert Kennedy. Williams and his wife, Claudine Longet, were best friends with Kennedy and his wife, Ethel. They vacationed together, and the tone-deaf Kennedy loved to sing off-key renditions of Williams’s hits. In fact, on the night Kennedy was assassinated, the couples were supposed to meet at the Factory, a trendy Los Angeles nightclub. During the televised speech in which he declared victory in the California primary -- a speech that ended, “on to Chicago” -- Kennedy made a private hand signal to alert Williams that he should make his way to the club. Of course, Kennedy never made it. He was shot before he could leave the hotel, and died the next day. Williams sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” at Kennedy’s funeral.
However, Williams’s endorsement of Democratic politicians did not extend to the current president. In the last 20 years, his headquarters was the Moon River Theater in Branson, Mo., the capital of Red State entertainment. Williams sang to older, rural, conservative audiences, and he shared their political views. Williams couldn’t stand Barack Obama, as he made clear to the British newspaper the Telegraph. (Williams was extremely popular in the U.K., where he was idolized as a classic lounge singer.)
“Don’t like him at all,” he said, “I think he wants to create a socialist country. The people he associates with are very Left-wing. One is registered as a Communist. Obama is following Marxist theory. He's taken over the banks and the car industry. He wants the country to fail.”
Andy Williams always knew his audience. But let's not remember him for his politics. Let's remember him for this mod anthem: