One of my favorite songs of all time is “Moon River,” as sung by crooner Andy Williams. I remember playing it on the piano and singing along (with the door closed) as a child. Our family always watched his television program, and I added his other songs (“Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” “Love Story,” “Can’t Get Used to Losing You,” “Born Free,” “Butterfly,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time,” and “Arms of Love”) to my list of beloved popular songs. Yesterday, I was saddened to read that he had died of bladder cancer at the age of 84.
“Moon River,” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, was never released as a single, but Williams had forty-five other songs which made the Billboard Top 100. Other singers, including Frank Sinatra, sang “Moon River,” but the song became the trademark of Andy Williams when he sang it at the 1962 Academy Awards where it won an Oscar for Best Original Song. He had eighteen gold and three platinum records over the course of his fifty-year singing career, and he recorded forty-two albums. Williams was known for his easy-going personality, both in and out of the studio.
“Music to Watch Girls By” was popular in 1967, but it was revived as a hit when it was used in a Fiat commercial in 1999. He was still relevant in his seventies. Amazing.
I grew up listening to church music, The Andy Williams Show, The Lawrence Welk Show, and The Ed Sullivan Show, and my appetite for music increased. The music was enduring; I still remember the lyrics. What will the children of this generation remember? And if they do learn the lyrics of today’s popular music, what do the words teach them? “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn. That’s all right because I like the way it hurts.” Put destructive lyrics to catchy music, and those words stick in the mind.
The only really bright spot that I see is on Broadway. There are still great songs being performed in those productions, such as “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Miserables,” “Cats,” and “Wicked,” though they aren’t particularly popular with the younger generation.
I enjoy the contemporary music of Christianity today, but I wonder how lasting it is. Will “Awakening” still be around in two hundred years? “Amazing Grace,” “A Mighty Fortress,” and other great hymns of the faith have stood for generations, but I see a turnaround in today’s church music every few months. I’m not at all against it; I just wonder what we’re losing and what will last.