News of the death of Andy Williams made me think immediately of my father, who loved the song “Moon River,” which was written by Henry Mancini for the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and was a hit record in at least two versions that I know of: an instrumental by Mantovani and His Orchestra and the vocal rendition by Williams.
My father and his friends, all children of Italian immigrants, all striving to make their way up the ladder of success to join the middle class, attached great value to certain things they perceived as emblems of American aflluence.
My father, for instance, bought golf clubs and went through a phase of playing on Saturdays at the local public golf course, but then gave it up — I believe because he was too tired from working two and sometimes three jobs.
Likewise, he had a bar in his living room where he made highballs and whiskey sours for his friends and aspired to have a finished basement with a really nice hi-fi system where he could listen to Mantovani and Streisand and Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole and Perry Como/…and Andy Williams.
Andy with his cool and mellow way of speaking and singing…Andy with his mohair sweaters and his winning smile…Andy singing “The Christmas Song” as chestnuts roasted on the open fire of some cozy ski lodge in Colorado as the Williams clan and friends gathered ’round every Yule for Andy’s Christmas TV special.
I don’t mean to belittle my father. No, far from it.
The song “Moon River,” with its romance and its nostalgia and its beautiful air of melancholy and longing, moves me whenever I hear it, for I can hear my father — dead ten years this October, gone too soon at age 69 — singing along to the instrumental version by Mantovani about “two dreamers” and his “huckleberry friend…”
“Moon River” reminds me of cool autumn nights with their whisper of winter to come. But the song also makes me think of a young man in the late springtime of his life — my father would have been in his early 30s during those years when I remember him singing “Moon River” — who still believed his dreams could and would come true, “just around the bend,” “my huckleberry friend.”