Andy Williams, 'Moon River' singer, has died at age 84.

The crooner passed away in his Branson, Mo. home Tuesday after battling bladder cancer, CBS News reports. He had announced his diagnosis in November of last year.

MORE FROM CANADIAN PRESS:

ST. LOUIS - With a string of gold albums and the signature "Moon River," Andy Williams was a voice of the 1960s in America, although not the '60s people usually hear about now.

"The old cliche says that if you can remember the 1960s, you weren't there," the singer once recalled. "Well, I was there all right, but my memory of them is blurred — not by any drugs I took but by the relentless pace of the schedule I set myself."

Williams' plaintive tenor, boyish features and easy demeanour helped him outlast many of the rock stars who had displaced him and such fellow crooners as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. He remained on the charts into the 1970s and continued to perform in his 80s.

In November 2011, when Williams announced that he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer, he vowed to return to performing the following year, his 75th in show business.

Williams died Tuesday night at his home following a yearlong battle with the disease, his Los Angeles-based publicist, Paul Shefrin, said Wednesday. He was 84.

Williams became a major star the same year as Elvis Presley, 1956, with the Sinatra-like swing "Canadian Sunset," and 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."

In 1970, when even Sinatra had given up and (temporarily) retired, Williams was in the top 10 with the theme from "Love Story," the Oscar-winning tearjerker. He had 18 gold records and three platinum, was nominated for five Grammy awards and hosted the Grammy ceremonies for several years.

Movie songs became a specialty, from "Love Story" and "Days of Wine and Roses" to "Moon River." The longing Johnny Mercer-Henry Mancini ballad was his most famous song, even though he never released it as a single because his record company feared such lines as "my huckleberry friend" were too confusing and old-fashioned for teens. The song was first performed by Audrey Hepburn in the beloved 1961 film "Breakfast at Tiffany's," but Mancini thought "Moon River" ideal for Williams, who recorded it in "pretty much one take."

Although "Moon River" was covered by countless artists, Williams made the song his personal brand. In fact, he insisted on it.

"When I hear anybody else sing it, it's all I can to do stop myself from shouting at the television screen, 'No! That's my song!'" Williams wrote in his 2009 memoir, titled, fittingly, "Moon River and Me."

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

Williams did book some rock and soul acts, including the Beach Boys, the Temptations and Smokey Robinson. On one show, in 1970, Williams sang "Heaven Help Us All" with Ray Charles, Mama Cass and a then-little known Elton John, a vision to Williams in his rhinestone glasses and black cape. But Williams liked him and his breakthrough hit "Your Song" enough to record it himself.

Williams' 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."

His wholesome image endured one jarring interlude. In 1976, his ex-wife, former Las Vegas showgirl Claudine Longet, shot and killed her lover, skiing champion Spider Sabich. The Rolling Stones mocked the tragedy in "Claudine," a song so pitiless that it wasn't released until decades later. Longet, who said it was an accident, spent only a week in jail. Williams stood by her. He escorted her to the courthouse, testified on her behalf and provided support for her and their children, Noelle, Christian and Robert.

Also in the 1970s, Williams was seen frequently in the company of Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's widow. The singer denied any romantic involvement.

He was born Howard Andrew Williams in Dec. 3, 1927. In his memoir, Williams remembered himself as a shy boy who concealed his insecurity "behind a veneer of cheek and self-confidence."

Williams began performing with his older brothers Dick, Bob and Don in the local Presbyterian church choir.

The brothers eventually joined Bing Crosby in recording the hit "Swinging on a Star" in 1944 for Crosby's film "Going My Way."

Williams initially struggled as a solo act and was so broke at one point that he resorted to eating food intended for his two dogs.
"I had no money for food, so I ate it," he recalled in 2001, "and it actually was damned good."

A two-year TV stint on Steve Allen's "Tonight Show" and a contract with Cadence Records turned things around. In the 1960s. Williams later formed his own label, Barnaby Records, which released music by the Everly Brothers, Ray Stevens and Jimmy Buffett.

Williams was a lifelong Republican who once accused President Obama of "following Marxist theory." But he acknowledged experimenting with LSD, opposed the Nixon administration's efforts in the 1970s to deport John Lennon and, in 1968, was an energetic supporter of Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign. When Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles in June 1968, just after winning the California Democratic primary, Williams sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" at his funeral.

"We chose that song because he used it on the campaign trail," Williams later said of Kennedy, who had been a close friend. "He had a terrible voice but he loved to sing that song. The only way I got through singing in church that day was by saying, 'This is my job. I can't let emotion get in the way of the song.' I really concentrated on not thinking about him."

Williams in 1992 decided to settle in Branson, Missouri, the self-proclaimed "live entertainment capital of the country," with its dozens of theatres featuring live music, comedy and magic acts.

"The fact is most of my friends in L.A. still think I'm nuts for coming here," he told The Associated Press in 1998.

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."

___
Thomas reported from Los Angeles.

Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Love Beads

    1968: Popular American crooner Andy Williams shares an affectionate moment with Claudine Longet. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

  • Andy Williams

    Fabian Forte (L), Donald O'Connor (2L), Frankie Avalon (2R), Andy Williams (R), and Pat Boone (C) cutting his birthday cake during party at the Ambassador Hotel. (Photo by Don Cravens//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

  • Andy Williams with his brothers

    Andy Williams (far R) and his brothers performing when they were the singing group The William Brothers. (Photo by Ray Fisher//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

  • 40th Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony

    NEW YORK - JUNE 18: Singer/Songwriter Andy Williams speaks on stage during the 40th Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony at The New York Marriott Marquis on June 18, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall of Fame)

  • 40th Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony

    NEW YORK - JUNE 18: Singer/Songwriter Andy Williams performs on stage during the 40th Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony at The New York Marriott Marquis on June 18, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall of Fame)

  • 40th Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony

    NEW YORK - JUNE 18: Singer Andy Williams and wife Debbie Williams walk the red carpet during the 40th Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony at The New York Marriott Marquis on June 18, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall of Fame)

  • 10th Annual Ella Awards

    Dick Van Dyke, Julie Andrews and Andy Williams at the Society of Singers' 10th Annual Ella Award presentation to singer, actress Dame Julie Andrews at the Beverly Hilton, Beverly Hills, Ca. 4/25/01. Los Angeles. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

  • Andy Arrives

    14th December 1976: Popular American singer Andy Williams arrives at the Talk Of The Town in London's Leicester Square for a charity cabaret show, in which he stars with Danny LaRue and Frankie Vaughan. The show is in aid of the St John's Ambulance Association and their patron the Queen will be in attendance. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

  • Andy Williams Fans

    30th April 1974: Popular American singer Andy Williams receives a silver ice bucket, goblets and a tray from Marilyn Everson, right, and Penny Probert, president and vice-president, respectively, of the Andy Williams Appreciation Society, at the Kensington Close Hotel. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

  • Andy Williams Arrives

    14th December 1976: Popular American singer Andy Williams arrives at the Talk Of The Town in London's Leicester Square for a charity cabaret show, in which he stars with Danny LaRue and Frankie Vaughan. The show is in aid of the St John's Ambulance Association and their patron the Queen will be in attendance. (Photo by Peter Cade/Central Press/Getty Images)

  • 10th Annual Ella Awards

    Robert Goulet and Andy Williams at the Society of Singers' 10th Annual Ella Award presentation to singer, actress Dame Julie Andrews at the Beverly Hilton, Beverly Hills, Ca. 4/25/01. Los Angeles. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

  • Singers (L-R) Phil Collins, Macy Gray and Andy Wil

    LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: Singers (L-R) Phil Collins, Macy Gray and Andy Williams present the Grammy for Song of the Year during the 42d Annual Grammy Award in Los Angeles 23 February, 2000. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO Hector MATA (Photo credit should read HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Dempsey And Williams

    30th April 1974: American boxer Jack Dempsey (1895 - 1983) 'chins' popular singer Andy Williams in London. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

  • Williams In White

    American singer Andy Williams performing before an audience of 10,000 at the Crystal Palace Bowl, the first venue of his current European tour. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

  • Andy Williams and Alan Bernard

    TV producer Alan Bernard (L) and Folk singer Andy Williams (2L) watching dancers audition for this show at NBC Studio. (Photo by Leonard Mccombe//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

  • Andy Williams

    22nd May 1968: American vocalist Andy Williams rehearsing at the Royal Albert Hall for a series of three concerts with the Henry Mancini Concert Orchestra. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

  • Andy And Julie

    American singer Andy Williams with British singer and actress Julie Andrews. They are in Hollywood for the Golden Globe Awards, where Julie has been nominated for an award and Andy will be master of ceremonies. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • Andy Williams

    9th November 1970: American singer Andy Williams, rehearsing at the London Palladium for a Royal Variety Performance. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

  • Andy Williams

    29th July 1972: Popular American singer Andy Williams gets a bit of cricket practice in at the Oval, London, before making his debut there in a match with the Vic Lewis All Stars VI, who will compete with the Mickey Stewart Surrey VI in the Mickey Stewart 1972 Testimonial Match. (Photo by Leonard Burt/Central Press/Getty Images)

  • Williams Flies In

    July 1972: Popular American singer Andy Williams amongst travellers on the runway at Heathrow Airport. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

  • 1971, American singer Andy Williams

    Entertainment/Music, London, England, 17th December 1971, American singer Andy Williams famous for his 'easy listening' style (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

  • Vaughan And Co

    American jazz singer and pianist Sarah 'Sassy' Vaughan (1924 - 1990) with singer Andy Williams (right) and conductor Nelson Riddle who are all to appear in cabaret for the first time together at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London. Original Publication: People Disc - HM0092 (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

  • 50th Annual Grammy Awards - Show

    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Singers Nelly Furtado, Andy Williams and Roselyn Sanchez onstage during the 50th annual Grammy awards held at the Staples Center on February 10, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

  • 50th Annual Grammy Awards - Show

    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Singers Nelly Furtado, Andy Williams and Roselyn Sanchez onstage during the 50th annual Grammy awards held at the Staples Center on February 10, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

  • 10th Annual Ella Awards

    Andy Williams performs at the Society of Singers' 10th Annual Ella Award presentation to singer, actress Dame Julie Andrews at the Beverly Hilton, Beverly Hills, Ca. 4/25/01. Los Angeles. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

  • The Society Of Singers 17th Annual ELLA Awards - Arrivals

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 19: (L to R) Singers Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Barry Manilow and Pat Boone pose for a photograph at The Society of Singers 17th Annual ELLA Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on May 19, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

  • Singer Andy Williams and his wife, Debbi

    Singer Andy Williams and his wife, Debbie, arrive at the 50th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on February 10, 2008. AFP PHOTO/Gabriel BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 50th Annual Grammy Awards - Arrivals

    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Singer Andy Williams arrives at the 50th annual Grammy awards held at the Staples Center on February 10, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

  • The Osmond's Walk of Fame

    HOLLYWOOD - AUGUST 7: (L-R standing) Jay, Tom, family patriarch George, singer Andy Williams, Merrill, Allan and Wayne Osmond. Seated are Donny, Marie and Jimmy Osmond posing at a ceremony honoring The Osmond family with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame August 7, 2003 in Hollywood, California. Donny injured his neck while body surfing in Hawaii. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)

  • Andy Williams in Concert

    LONDON - JULY 1: Singer Andy Williams performs at Royal Albert Hall during his tour of the United Kingdom July 1, 2002 in London, England. (Photo by John Li/Getty Images)

  • Milton Berle's 93rd Birthday Party

    Andy Williams at 'Hollywood's Gala Salute to Milton Berle' to celebrate his 93rd birthday at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, Ca. 7/22/01. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

  • Andy Williams in Concert

    LONDON - JULY 1: Singer Andy Williams performs under red stage lights at Royal Albert Hall during his tour of the United Kingdom July 1, 2002 in London, England. (Photo by John Li/Getty Images)

  • Andy Williams

    HOLLYWOOD - AUGUST 7: Singer Andy Williams attends a ceremony honoring The Osmond family with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame August 7, 2003 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)

  • Andy Williams

    UNITED STATES - MARCH 25: Andy Williams during the Celine Dion new concert 'A New Day; ' at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, United States on March 25, 2003. (Photo by REPORTERS ASSOCIES/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

  • Andy Williams in Concert

    LONDON - JULY 1: Singer Andy Williams performs under red stage lights at Royal Albert Hall during his tour of the United Kingdom July 1, 2002 in London, England. (Photo by John Li/Getty Images)

  • Andy Williams

    American singer Andy Wiliams performs on stage in London.

  • Andy Williams

    American singer Andy Wiliams performs on stage in London.

  • Andy Williams

    American singer Andy Wiliams performs on stage in London.

  • Andy Williams

    American singer Andy Wiliams performs on stage in London.

  • Andy Williams

    American pop singer Andy Williams.

  • Television - ATV Series - Saturday Special

    Andy Williams, American pop singer.

  • Television - ATV Series - Saturday Special

    Andy Williams, American pop singer.

  • Andy Williams

    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. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)