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'A great icon has just left this world,' Alan Osmond says of Andy Williams (+video)

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 26 2012 6:04 p.m. MDT

Singer Andy Williams at RFK celebrity tennis tournament at Forest Hills, New York on August 27, 1977. Emmy-winning TV host and Singer Andy Williams at RFK celebrity tennis tournament at Forest Hills, New York on August 27, 1977. Emmy-winning TV host and "Moon River" crooner Williams died Tuesday night, Sept, 25, 2012 at his home in Branson, Mo., following a year-long battle with bladder cancer. He was 84. (Ira Schwarz, Associated Press)

PROVO — Singer Andy Williams, whose golden tones made their mark in the 1960s and '70s, died Tuesday of cancer.

The 84-year-old entertainer died at his Branson, Mo., home following a yearlong battle with bladder cancer. He outlasted many of the decade's rock stars and fellow crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. He remained on the charts into the 1970s and continued to perform into his 80s.

His big hit was "Moon River" and his Christmas albums have always been popular.

Williams was a friend of the Osmonds and a classic performer. In 1962, a family of young boys from Utah made their television debut on the hit variety program "The Andy Williams Show."

Wednesday, the Osmonds walked down memory lane as they mourned the death of someone they considered part of their family.

"We're sad to see Andy Williams go, a great icon has just left this world,” Alan Osmond said.

FILE - This Feb. 23, 1978 file photo shows performer and host Andy Williams at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Williams, who had a string of gold albums and hosted several variety shows and specials like FILE - This Feb. 23, 1978 file photo shows performer and host Andy Williams at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Williams, who had a string of gold albums and hosted several variety shows and specials like "The Andy Williams Show," died Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, at his home in Branson, Missouri, following a yearlong battle with bladder cancer, his Los Angeles-based publicist, Paul Shefrin, said Wednesday. He was 84. (Lennox McLendon, file, Associated Press)

He remembers being just 12 years old when he and his brothers first performed for Williams.

“He gave us the opportunity,” Osmond said. “Entertainers are jealous, they want the star. But he was, 'Come on in here boys.' He'd put his arms around us, he sang with us, he encouraged us, he laughed with us, he cried with us. We had great moments and bad moments, but he was always there."

The relationship continued over the decades. The Osmonds would later find themselves performing in Branson, thanks to Williams. Then on Aug. 7, 2003, when the Osmond family got its own star on the Hollywood walk of fame, Williams was there to congratulate them.

“This is a family that has grown and grown and delivering talked,” Williams said. “And I think they are the royal family of entertainment.”

It was during that day on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that second-generation Nathan Osmond had a special message for Williams.

FILE - In a May 12, 1961 file photo, Andy Williams performs a song on a television show. Emmy-winning TV host and FILE - In a May 12, 1961 file photo, Andy Williams performs a song on a television show. Emmy-winning TV host and "Moon River" crooner Williams died Tuesday night, Sept, 25, 2012 at his home in Branson, Mo., following a year-long battle with bladder cancer. He was 84. (Associated Press)

"I said, 'Andy I've got to just tell you something. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Look what you've started,' and I pointed to all the fans that were blocking Hollywood Boulevard. I said, 'Thank you for giving my family that big shot,' and 'I'm so grateful that they had that opportunity.' When I got up this morning and read the news of his passing, I just remembered that moment of getting the chance to thank him for everything he did for the Osmond family."

Williams' voice will live on for the Osmonds, as they watch clips of their time with him so many years ago.

“I know he is singing in heaven with all those wonderful angels above as he has a voice like nobody else,” Alan Osmond said.

Williams became a major star in 1956, the same year as Elvis Presley, with the Sinatra-like swing number "Canadian Sunset." For a time, he was pushed into such Presley imitations as "Lips of Wine" and the No. 1 smash "Butterfly."

But he mostly stuck to what he called his "natural style" and kept it up throughout his career. In 1970, when even Sinatra had temporarily retired, Williams was in the top 10 with the theme from "Love Story," the Oscar-winning tearjerker. He had 18 gold records, three platinum and five Grammy award nominations.

FILE - U.S. singer Andy Williams smiles as he speaks to reporters during his news conference at a Tokyo hotel, in this July 25, 2004 file photo. The Branson Tri-Lakes News reports the 83-year-old Williams told the crowd at his Christmas show Saturday night Nov. 5, 2011 at the Moon River Theatre in Branson, Mo., that he is battling bladder cancer.  (Shizuo Kambayashi, File, Associated Press) FILE - U.S. singer Andy Williams smiles as he speaks to reporters during his news conference at a Tokyo hotel, in this July 25, 2004 file photo. The Branson Tri-Lakes News reports the 83-year-old Williams told the crowd at his Christmas show Saturday night Nov. 5, 2011 at the Moon River Theatre in Branson, Mo., that he is battling bladder cancer. (Shizuo Kambayashi, File, Associated Press)

He had been a constant presence on television with "The Andy Williams Show," which lasted in various formats through the 1960s and into 1971. It won three Emmys and featured Williams alternately performing his stable of hits and bantering with guest stars.

Williams was also the first host of the live Grammy awards telecast and hosted the show for seven consecutive years, beginning in 1971.

For many families, Williams and his music were a holiday tradition. His annual Christmas specials continued long after his show ended, featuring Williams dressed in colorful sweaters singing favorites that almost always included "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," a song written for Williams that became a holiday standard.

Williams' act was, apparently, not an act. The singer's unflappable manner on television and in concert was mirrored offstage.

"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."

In 1992, he moved to Branson, where he did two shows a night, six days a week, nine months of the year. Only in recent years did he cut back to one show a night. His most popular time was Christmas.

He and his second wife, the former Debbie Haas, divided their time between homes in Branson and Palm Springs, Calif., where he spent his leisure hours on the golf course when Branson's theaters were dark during the winter months following Christmas.

Retirement was not on his schedule. As he told the AP in 2001: "I'll keep going until I get to the point where I can't get out on stage."

Williams is survived by his wife and his three children.

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com

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