In 1968 Williams scored with a punchy revival of Frankie Valli’s little-known “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and Columbia released “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, which he sang at Bobby Kennedy’s funeral. In 1970 Williams reworked Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, a romantic ballad from the 1961 film, Blue Hawaii. The up-tempo arrangement worked so well that Presley never again sang it as a ballad and it became the closing number at all his concerts.
The British writers Tony Macaulay and Roger Greenaway had written “Home Lovin’ Man” for Richard Harris. Greenaway recalls, “I was in Hollywood and I played the demo to Dick Glasser who was Andy Williams’ producer. He said, ‘I’ll do it with Andy on Saturday.’ I got to sing on the session, doing the high voice, which Andy usually did himself.” Not only was it a hit single, it was also the title track of yet another best-selling album – but the writers had to avoid an irate Richard Harris.
In 1971 Williams sang the romantic theme for Love Story, “Where Do I Begin?”. The following year, he sang “Speak Softly Love”, the love theme from The Godfather (if that is not an oxymoron). Although several versions of “Solitaire” had been issued, it was Andy Williams who took the song into the charts over Christmas 1973.
In 1977 Claudine Longet was living in Aspen, Colorado with the Olympic skier, Vladimir “Spider” Sabich, whose career was the basis of Robert Redford’s film, Downhill Racer. He had a Luger with a broken safety catch. She pointed the gun at him and it went off and killed him. Williams escorted her to the trial, testifying to her character and providing legal help. She was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and was jailed for a month. She married her defence lawyer.
When The Andy Williams Show was cancelled in 1971, Williams took to hosting the Grammys and organising sporting events, notably a golf tournament in his name. He retained his popularity as a concert act, but his best-selling records tended to be compilations. Nevertheless, there were some fine moments and a totally overlooked single was the superb “Railway Hotel” (1980), written by Mike Batt about a ramshackle hotel near Croydon: “I wanted so much for the first night with you / But the Railway Hotel was the best I could do.”
Williams’ life changed in two ways in 1991. First, he married Debbie Haas, whom he met through a mutual friend. Secondly, his brother Don, who managed Ray Stevens, invited him to the opening of Stevens’ theatre in Branson, Missouri. Williams thought this was a great idea and built his own venue, the Moon River Theatre, the following year. The walls were filled with memorabilia and items from Williams’ collection of modern art including Pollock and Warhol. He appeared regularly at the theatre and booked many star names. An episode of The Simpsons was set in the theatre.
Williams’ “Happy Heart”, a 1969 success, was used to telling effect in the film, Shallow Grave (1994). Then his 1967 recording of “Music to Watch Girls By” became a surprise UK hit after being featured in TV ads for Fiat and despite being about as politically incorrect as a song could be in 1999. Sell-out UK dates followed including the Albert Hall and Williams remade “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” with Denise van Outen, although his original was superior. In 2009 he published his autobiography, Moon River And Me, but when he sang on Strictly Come Dancing to promote a hits collection, his version of “MoonRiver” revealed that his voice had deteriorated.