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Andy Williams dies: 'Moon River' singer dies after battle with cancer

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ST. LOUIS (AP) - Andy Williams, the silky-voiced, clean-cut crooner, whose hit recording "Moon River" and years of popular Christmas TV shows brought him fans the world over has died, his publicist said. He was 84.

Williams died Tuesday night at his home in Branson following a yearlong battle with bladder cancer, his Los Angeles-based publicist, Paul Shefrin, said Wednesday.

With an easy style and a mellow voice that President Ronald Reagan once termed "a national treasure," Williams proved ideal for television. "The Andy Williams Show," which lasted in various formats from 1957 to 1971, featured Williams alternately performing his stable of easy-listening ballads and bantering casually with his guest stars. He received 18 gold and three platinum albums over his long career and was nominated for five Grammy awards. He released an autobiography in 2009, "Moon River and Me: A Memoir."

It was on that show that Williams - who launched his own career as part of an all-brother quartet - introduced the world to the original four singing Osmond Brothers of Utah. Their younger sibling Donny also made his debut on Williams' show, in 1963 when he was 6 years old.

Four decades later, the Osmonds and Williams would find themselves in close proximity again, sharing Williams' theater in Branson, Mo., during the 2003 season.

The singer's unflappable manner on television and in concert mirrored his offstage demeanor.

"I guess I've never really been aggressive, although almost everybody else in show business fights and gouges and knees to get where they want to be," he once said. "My trouble is, I'm not constructed temperamentally along those lines."

Williams' clean-cut persona, which made him a popular act in conservative Branson, also carried over into his personal life. He was connected with scandal only once - indirectly - when his ex-wife, former Las Vegas showgirl Claudine Longet, shot her lover, skiing champion Spider Sabich, to death in 1976. The Rolling Stones mocked the tragedy in the song "Claudine."

Longet, who said it was an accident, spent only a week in jail, and Williams provided support for her and their children, Noelle, Christian and Robert.

Born in Wall Lake, Iowa, on Dec. 3, 1927, Howard Andrew Williams began performing with his older brothers Dick, Bob and Don in the local Presbyterian church choir when he was 8. Their father, a postal worker, was the choirmaster.

Soon after, the Williams Brothers Quartet landed a regular spot on Des Moines radio station WHO's Iowa Barn Dance. The show quickly brought attention from Chicago, Cincinnati and Hollywood.

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