Andy Williams & 'Moon River': The Song That Made Him A Superstar

09/26/2012 01:39 pm ET

Andy Williams died Tuesday at the age of 84 after an almost year-long battle with cancer. Fans around the world are mourning the legendary singer by listening to his classics, none of which is more widely celebrated than "Moon River."

"Moon River" was written and composed by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini in 1961. The song was sung by Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

The track eventually became synonymous with Williams, who first recorded it in 1961 and performed it at the 1962 Oscars. Although he never released it as a single (his recording company thought "Moon River" was too confusing and old-fashioned for teens), the soft ballad skyrocketed him into the celebrity stratosphere.

Williams' recording of "Moon River," released on the album Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes, led to NBC's 1962 premiere of "The Andy Williams Show," a weekly variety program, according to People magazine. The show stayed on the air until 1971 and subsequently returned as an annual Christmas special.

The Iowa-born singer went on to enjoy immense fame and success, earnings 17 gold and three platinum albums over the span of his career. President Reagan dubbed him "a national treasure."

Williams even named his $12 million state-of-the-art theatre in Branson, Mo. after the song. The Andy Williams Moon River Theatre opened its doors on May 1, 1991, and has welcomed the likes of Glen Campbell, Ann-Margret, Petula Clark and Charo. The theater won the 1992 Conservation Award for Developed Land Use from the State of Missouri, according to the bio. It is also the only theatre to be featured in Architectural Digest.

"Moon River" clearly stuck with the performer. He later opened a restaurant called "The Moon River Grill" in 2007. Williams' autobiography, titled “Moon River and Me,” was released in 2009 and rose to No. 10 on the Los Angeles Times Best-Seller List.

Williams died at his home in Branson. He is survived by his wife, Debbie, and his three children from another relationship.

Andy Williams and "Moon River"

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