Mr. Williams’s entertainment career spanned eight decades, starting when he was an 8-year-old singer performing at church socials in his native Iowa. With his radiant smile, chiseled dimples and earnest personality, he conveyed an unfailingly wholesome image throughout his career — sometimes to his dismay. All too often, he wrote in his memoir, he was perceived as a “farm boy in a tuxedo.”
There was a seemingly effortless warmth in Mr. Williams’s tenor voice, but it was a hard-earned achievement after years of practice in small clubs and on the road. “You have to practice harder, because you’re not as good as the others out there,” his father had told him as a child. It stoked a lifelong desire to excel but also to please.
“I still think I’m not as good as anybody else,” he told an interviewer as he approached retirement after a career in which he sold many millions of records.
Mr. Williams’s heyday spanned the life of his musical variety TV program, “The Andy Williams Show,” which aired on NBC from 1962 to 1967 and again from 1969 to 1971. The Christmas specials that spun off from the show ran for decades afterward, featuring celebrity carolers as well as members of the Williams family. The specials became television staples for generations of viewers and epitomized the season as much as department store Santas.
In a varied show business career, Mr. Williams headlined at major venues such as the Copacabana in New York and Caesars Palace casino in Las Vegas, sang at three Academy Awards ceremonies in the 1960s, hosted the first live telecast of the Grammy Awards in 1971, and headlined the halftime show of Super Bowl VII in 1973. After the assassination of his friend Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, Mr. Williams sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” at the funeral.
There were early attempts to make Mr. Williams a rock star in the Elvis Presley mold; one rock-tinged song, “Butterfly,” rose to No. 1 on the pop charts in 1957. He also ventured promisingly into jazz with his 1961 album “Under Paris Skies,” with Quincy Jones conducting the orchestra.
But Mr. Williams found his greatest commercial success in the 1960s and early 1970s with anodyne pop and yuletide music, which yielded more than a dozen hits. During this period, he recorded or popularized a slew of lush, orchestra-backed movie themes. Besides his signature number “Moon River” (from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”), Mr. Williams recorded “Days of Wine and Roses,”
“Born Free,” “The Shadow of Your Smile” (from “The Sandpiper”), “Charade,” the theme from “Love Story,” and a love ballad from “The Godfather” known as “Speak Softly Love.”