Andy Williams, the mild-mannered, hugely popular crooner who sang “Moon River” and toplined “The Andy Williams Show” from 1962 to ’71, has died of bladder cancer at age 84. Williams was a nice guy with an easy smile and a smooth voice that was a stylistic cousin of Steve Lawrence, Vic Damone and Perry Como‘s. He was friendly with Bobby Kennedy in the ’60s and supported George McGovern in ’72. But he later turned into a rightie who claimed Barack Obama was “following Marxist theory.”

(l.) the late Andy Williams; (r.) Lauren Bacall.

I always found “Moon River” to be a little too smooth and dreamy and older-person schmaltzy. My favorite Williams tune by far is “Can’t Get Used To Losing You.” I don’t know what the precise term is for the syncopation of that tune (violins and guitars going “bluhk” and then “bluhk-bluhk”) but that’s what made that song — the spare, plucky, off-rhythm of it.

Most online authorities and showbiz biographers (including “Bogart” author Ann Sperber) have claimed that the urban legend about a 17-year-old Williams having dubbed Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not (’44) is untrue. I misheard that rumor and always thought Williams had dubbed Bacall for the performing of “And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine” in The Big Sleep. But here’s an mp3 of Williams himself explaining that yes, it’s true…at least as far as To Have and Have Not was concerned. The song he dubbed was called “How Little We Know.”

Here’s a passage from Williams’ Wiki bio:

“Williams was close friends with Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy, campaigning for Kennedy ’68 for President. Williams was among the celebrities who were present at the Ambassador Hotel on the night Sirhan Sirhan shot and mortally wounded RFK in June 1968. Williams solemnly sang ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ at RFK’s funeral, by request of widow Ethel. By August 1969, over a year after Bobby Kennedy’s death, Andy and wife Claudine Longet named their newborn son ‘Bobby’ Williams. The Williams’ friendship with Ethel Kennedy endured, with Williams even serving as escort to Ethel, during events in the 1970s. He also raised funds for George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign, performing at benefit concerts.

“While close friends with the Democratic Kennedys, Williams was a lifelong Republican. On September 29, 2009, he was quoted by the Daily Telegraph as accusing President Barack Obama of “following Marxist theory” and “wanting the country to fail“. He gave Rush Limbaugh permission to use his recording of the song ‘Born Free’ for the theme to the ‘Animal Rights Update’ on Limbaugh’s radio show — in which a portion of the song is then followed by gunfire — saying “Hey, it’s fine with me. I love what you’re doing with it.” The record company later blocked Limbaugh’s use of the recording.”