Music and nostalgia…particularly Hamlisch, David and Williams

I often listen to evening local talk radio, and last night, following the announcement of the death of Andy Williams, 40-something-ish on-air host Tim Conway, Jr. asked others in the studio to share their thoughts. Each person respectfully mentioned his lengthy career and musical contribution, but Conway stated he had never heard and did not have any personal memory linking the singer to the song Moon River.

I aged on the spot!

I recall spending the night at my grandparents’ home and enjoying Andy with them.  Television options weren’t plentiful, and the Andy Williams Show appealed to multiple generations. I am also sure I never missed the annual Christmas shows.

I haven’t listened to an Andy Williams recording in years, but when I hear his voice I immediately know who it is and feel very nostalgic.

And speaking of musical nostalgia…

Despite publicity that tickets to Neil Diamond’s summer return to the Greek Theater celebrating the 40th Anniversary of  “HOT AUGUST NIGHT” were available, I was completely discouraged from making an effort once I saw the exorbitant ticket prices. I could get a decent seat somewhere in the cool $250’s. I’m impulsive, but not THAT impulsive.

Change of plans.

We took advantage of a real  “hot August night” to enjoy a lovely evening at the famed Hollywood Bowl. It wasn’t Neil Diamond, but I was very excited to see headliners Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Carlos Santana perform together. Santana has been on my “must see” list for a very long time. The performance also introduced me to tabla master Zakir Hussain, and Gregoire Maret, a skillful artist with a jazz harmonica.

The Bowl, the largest natural amphitheater in the U.S., has been a huge draw for showcasing many of the world’s greatest musicians and performers.  Nestled in the Hollywood Hills, the Bowl has been attracting music lovers for 96 years. Pre-concert picnicking at the Bowl extends the evening’s enjoyment, offering relaxation under the stars.

Whenever Jay and I sit in our more modest middle of the Bowl seats, I think back to my first Bowl concert when I was treated to my friend Pattie’s family luxury —I thought of them that way–box seats. The  evening’s headliner was Burt Bacharach at the height of his glamorous public persona. He was still married to Angie Dickinson and churning out hit singles by the dozen.

Jackie DeShannon’s version of “What the World Needs Now is Love” was still wafting over the airwaves and Dusty Springfield had a new release, “The Look of Love.” Already hooked on musical theater, I sang along to the Bacharach/David  “Promises, Promises” soundtrack until the vinyl was well worn. I was thrilled with this concert and immediately enamored with the Hollywood Bowl.

I remembered my early Bacharach concert experience when I heard that Hal David, the quiet half of the Bacharach-David songwriting duo, passed away on September 1st. He collaborated with other composers, but when I was growing up, it was always Bacharach and David.

Sometimes I enjoy a little singable “calm down” music and my “best of” CD offering plenty of Bacharach/David, Dionne Warwick and others who sang those melodies so beautifully comes out to play.

As it happened, we were at the Bowl immediately following the death of Marvin Hamlisch, a friend of the Los Angeles music community and a Bowl supporter. His musical contributions will be missed, but  his stunning song catalog is well-known to anyone who pays attention to music and will remain popular.

He did, after all, begin composing at age eight!  Then at thirty years old he jumped into international recognition with three Academy Awards in one evening, for “The Sting” and “The Way We Were.” He also won a Pulitzer and Tony for his score of “A Chorus Line.

I must say that I love his music…all of it!

Three very talented musicians have passed away this summer, and they represent an era in music that isn’t likely to be seen again. It’s hard to place the simple lyrics and easy delivery of Bacharach/David or Andy Williams in today’s entertainment environment. And Hamlisch, a musical prodigy and genius, well…rare!

Tim Conway, Jr. wrapped up the radio segment referring to  Williams as a crooner, then concluded that famous crooners, Bing Crosby and Perry Como, now Williams, “are gone.” I hadn’t thought of that word in years.

A crooner, by definition, relates to singing “popular songs in a soft, sentimental manner.” I suppose if we use that as a working definition, then at times I am a crooner! Oh, I like that!

If you’re needing a boost to your overall well-being maybe  you need to sing a little bit, too. It’s a great way to get the most out of your weekend exhale! Just please don’t tell me you don’t know Moon River!

Let’s all breathe lighter!

51 thoughts on “Music and nostalgia…particularly Hamlisch, David and Williams

  1. NO, we are not too old, them others are just plain ignorant :) ! Andy Williams; not my kind of music, but respected! ‘Moon River’ – both my husbands courted me with the song: kind’of hard to forget! Burt Bacharach: when on earth did he go? OK – remember Bing Crosby not quite beloved by me, voting me the best hula dancer at Hanalei, Kauai: guess, it was some time ago!! [I WAS too!!] [Soft enjoyable laughter!] busy pre-Long Weekend post – why am I laughing???

    • That’s a very nice memory, Eha. Very flattering to have Bing Crosby pay such kind attention to your hula skill! Moon River is a classic song, and I always hear Andy Williams voice in my head if I hear the melody! Burt Bacharach is still living, but his writing partner, Hal David, passed away at 91 years of age. These musicians were part of our music culture and you’re right, respected, even if the musical style isn’t preferred! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Yes, it’s been a tough year for crooners and croon-writers with the loss of Hal David and now Andy Williams. It’s especially sad for me to see people my dad’s age dying. He’s 85 and he talks too much about being too old. I hate to see him being reminded in this way. Losing my mom at 64 and then my husband at 64 was hard enough, but something in me still wants my dad (and the era of my childhood) to be immortal. Weird, isn’t it?

    • Your thoughts aren’t weird at all. I relate to them, Lori! I am fortunate to have both of my parents living close to me, but I also see time passing–quickly– through the loss of some of our American cultural icons. I felt a big blow in this area when Elizabeth Taylor died. She wasn’t of our generation, in particular, but she was so identified with multiple generations! I felt so nostalgic when the men I mentioned died…each one! And probably since I hadn’t even seen a photo of Andy Williams in years he was still “young” in my mind. And that’s how I see our parents, too. More vital and engaged then they may even feel themselves. I accept that time passes…but I don’t have to like it all that much! I had not previously heard that Andy Williams had been so ill. I hope your dad is in good health! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lori. I think you express what many of us are thinking!

  3. I was at an Open Mic last night in Alameda where the M.C. did “Moon River” because of Williams’ death. I had never heard him sing it — I associate it with Frank Sinatra and other singers. Bacharach and David I remember well, and Marvin Hamlisch.

    • I am really surprised that you don’t associate Moon River with Andy Williams, Sharyn. That’s interesting. It’s funny how we all attach meaning to certain songs, remember them with different associations and they lodge in our memories according to what we have experienced. I can’t hear the original Henry Mancini recording of Moon River without hearing Andy Williams’ voice. I do hope you enjoyed your Open Mic night! I hope you’ll share more about that. :-) Was this a new experience for you, or do you go from time to time?

      • Hi Debra. I usually go to open mics when I have a new song that I want to play somewhere. They are long nights where you usually get to play one song only and you usually have to pay to get in, plus you end up spending money for drinks and snacks. If I sell a CD each time I go I can afford to go to open mics, but that is hard to do since they are populated by poor musicians that want to sing their songs! The Fireside Lounge is better than most — there is no cover and they give you three songs to do. That was my first time there and my first time doing an open mic with Johnny (who doesn’t need to do them).

      • I never thought of the fact that open mic performers still need to pay a cover charge! It makes sense, of course, but it would make you think twice! THe Fireside Lounge sounds like a good opportunity and I really admire the way you get out there and do it! I know people who talk about “doing it” but don’t. It does take a level of commitment and some “guts” to put yourself out there. But I hear from you a nice camaraderie and respect for and from the musician community. And I also hear that this is a very nice time in your life to be sharing these opportunities and experiences with Johnny. Enjoy your weekend…lots of nice things going on! :-)

  4. I have always wanted to see Neil Diamond live because it seems I grew up on his songs. My parents would have dinner parties and play his Hot August Night album relentlessly so I knew all lyrics to all his songs before my 10th birthday. But like you I wouldn’t pay that for a ticket. it’s just way too much and you have to wonder where all the money is going. Good on you for finding something equally good for a whole lot less xx

    • I have had other opportunities to see Neil Diamond, Charlie, and my problem is that I’m too slow! I am so enthusiastic and enjoy live concerts so much that I can indeed be too impulsive. So I’ve learned to think about it first…and with someone like Diamond who doesn’t tour all the time, as soon as the tickets go on sale they are grabbed! Maybe next time he’s at a big venue, in which the tix won’t be as pricey, I’ll just jump at it. He may not want to perform forever! :-) And I love to hear that you knew his HOT AUGUST NIGHT lyrics before you were even ten! Your parents had good musical taste! D

  5. I also like Andy Williams singing the Christmas classic “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” That will remind people of him, too… And it’s wonderful that you’ve gotten to see so many great performers in concert too… :)

    • I make a Christmas CD for friends and family, in place of a Christmas card. I am sure Andy’s “The Most Wonderful TIme of the Year” will be on my compilation this year, Meg! :-) He had such a nice, calm voice, didn’t he?

  6. The Williams family moved to Cincinnati when he was in his teens. The brothers sang on the 50K watts radio here, he graduated from HS here, and he remembered Cincinnati well. His show in the 60s was a good variety show!

    BTW, there is one today that does get the moniker of crooner … Michael Buble. Meanwhile, here’s a tribute to Andy Williams from the BBC. Good post Debra!

    • Oh thank you for the tribute video, Frank! I would have missed this! I did not know all the Cincinnati ties for the Williams family. In fact, I really didn’t know that much about the man, but admired his talent. I would agree with you entirely on Michael Buble, and I have done my best to support music sales to show my appreciation of Buble’s talent. I am always so pleased when a much younger musician and entertainer develops his own current style of recreating the standards. Buble has a beautiful voice! I hope you get some dancing in this weekend, Frank. In the brief period of time my husband and I enjoyed our dancing lessons I remember how much I liked dancing the fox trot to some of Buble’s hits! :-)

  7. At times, I am a crooner as well, Debra, and I was saddened when I heard of Andy William’s passing, my mind immediately hearing Moon River. Tom and I were in the car, both gasped, then remembered Andy’s television show, being introduced to the Osmond Brothers, the yearly Christmas show . . . I think that Andy Williams bridged a gap between my generation and my parents.

    Isn’t it a shame how ticket prices for concerts have sky-rocketed? Back in the day, we were able to see several concerts a year and not go broke, including Neil Diamond. We saw him in Chicago when we were still dating. Oh, I could go on, but, instead, I’ll take your lead, Debra, and listen to some music.

    • I’m so glad you also flashed to Moon River, Penny. It’s such a funny point, but because I find the Williams and the song so prominently connected I have found it surprising that not everyone does. It just reminds me that we don’t all hear everything the same! :-) I would love to be able to say I saw Neil Diamond at least once! I’m hoping that he performs again at one of the very largest venues, because ticket prices will be much more reasonable–there are always the “nose bleed” sections!

      I do, like you, really think that Andy Williams bridged the gap between generations, and that’s probably rare today. I do lament there aren’t variety shows like we used to enjoy. I don’t think today’s entertainers would fit in well with the format, but I know that our grandchildren aren’t going to be exposed to the same kind of wholesome entertainment we enjoyed, or even our own children were exposed to…and at least in my mind, that’s too bad! Nothing stays the same. Now I sound really old again! ha! I hope you have a good weekend, Penny!

  8. There is nothing like music. It contains our memories; make us smile; and soothes our heartaches. Moon River was one of those songs that I wanted to dance with whoever I was in love with at the time. I have always had an attraction to musicians and dated several in my younger years (oh, wait, I married one!). Whenever a loved musician dies, all of my memories come back and I wallow in the happiness and sadness for days. I loved Andy Williams partly for his music and partly because he was a good person. Having grown up in the 60s, I saw many YOUNG musicians die of unnatural causes. I love it when someone was able to lead a full life. Thanks for the morning smile. Sure wish that concert place was on the east coast! I did see Neil Diamond once. Fabulous!

    • Kate, you said so many lovely things in your reply to my post, but I think your statement that Andy Williams was a “good person” really touched me. I hadn’t exactly stopped to think about what it was that made him so endearing to me, but I do agree that there are sad and sordid stories all over the entertainment world, and I, like you, grew up in the 60s where beloved musicians took their own lives by way of drugs or violence. Although their musical legacy lives on, they died so young and sometimes the story “behind the music” can overshadow the talent. But Andy Williams just “crooned” on into old age, moved his career to Branson, MO and will be remembered as a wonderful man. What a good life! I’m glad we share a love of music, Kate. And I do need to see Neil Diamond just once! :-)

    • Andra, I DO know you love crooners. One of my earliest reads of your blog had me in stitches with your description of “scooting” all over a restaurant where you imagined Dean Martin had once been seated. I don’t recall all the details, but I laughed so hard picturing you, a young woman, and your emotional response to the crooners! From that point on I knew I had to know you as a friend! :-) Debra

  9. Great post! I used to love Andy Williams’ show back in the early 70s (when I was a boy), particularly the bear, of course, who never got a cookie! (not now – not ever!) But what a great voice Andy had and always a ready smile. One of the old school of entertainers. Thank you Debra.

    • Now you’ve made me smile, David, in helping me recall the bear on the Andy Williams Show. I’d definitely forgotten that skit. It reminds me of how simple entertainment was in those days, and how variety shows could be family time. I’m not aware of too many television shows that would be enjoyed, or even appropriate, for younger and older viewers today. Someone said that Andy Williams was just a nice man! I think that’s a fine legacy to leave behind, along with a lovely catalog of music. Thank you for sharing your childhood memories, too. It’s been delightful for me to hear what others remember of the man and the times! :-)

  10. These 3 men were giants in the music industry when it was the MUSIC industry and not video industry. It didn’t matter how good you looked, who you knew, or what you wore, first and foremost you had to be able to sing. Today, give the “star” an autotuner, make a video, and prepare a Grammy acceptance speech. There are many fine singers out today. Someone above mentioned Michael Buble. We just need to support them, whether it’s buying their single tracks or CDs or going to their concerts. I refuse, however, to pay $250.00 unless it’s for front row seats and a 3 course meal with the star afterward.
    I 1st saw Herbie Hancock in 1978, or thereabouts, in an outdoor theatre in suburban Detroit. He was a favorite then and has remained so.

    • I’m very much in agreement with you, John, that the musicians of “yesterday” were probably more authentic and appealed to a broader audience in part because they just sang and performed their music. They weren’t competitively outrageous! I’m pretty broadminded when it comes to tolerating the behaviors of today’s talent since I think I understand that the tide turned long ago and they need “to wear meat” in order to attract attention. It’s still too bad. In the latest Tony Bennett duets CD, his voice paired with Lady Gaga was just sublime! She can really sing! But I doubt she’d have made a name for herself with sultry jazz. I purchase a lot of music, and Michael Buble is a favorite. I really do agree that we need to support these young and talented performers who hopefully will have lengthy careers. It’s fun to talk music with you! Thanks so much, John.

    • You are far from alone in not recalling Moon River paired with Andy Williams, Nancy. I think in my little polling sample it’s about 50/50! But it is his song…enough so, that his Branson, MO theater was called the “Moon River Theater.” I did have to look that up after hearing something on the radio to suggest it might be true. Regardless of the specifics of what we each recall, I think his “sound” and identifiable style will always bring pleasant memories. That’s a wonderful legacy for a performer. :-)

  11. My mom put Moon River on repeat on the stereo, she had a lot of Andy’s albums, we always watched The Andy Williams Show and all of the Christmas Specials (which I loved). Remember when the Jackson Five were on! Yes, all the old crooners are gone now. Now I feel old, too!

    • I think the shock is when we do the math, Rita! Those shows were on 50 years ago! Yikes! I do wish there were some lovely variety shows with the gentle themes that were once popular. We’d probably all “yawn” now, I know, but there is nothing that I am really sure is appropriate for the very young and older alike. That’s a loss, I think. But this Christmas we’ll listen to Andy’s voice and have some nice, warm memories, and that’s a good legacy for a performer to leave behind. Thank you for reminding me about The Jackson Five…I have forgotten! :-)

    • I think we’ll listen to Andy’s Christmas song this year and no matter our age or how many recollections we have of him as a performer, we’ll just have pleasant thoughts. That’s a really nice way to be remembered! I think that nostalgia is really present in the Christmas songs. There are many standards that feel a part of my childhood, yet the performers were a bit before my time, too. It’s funny that many of us are mentioning Andy and Christmas…could it also be that we are headed into the “home stretch” of the year? :-)

    • I’m glad I could share just a little bit of the Hollywood Bowl ambiance with you! The Bowl, like almost all entertainment venues, has photography restrictions. But wisely, they know you’re going to break out the phone cameras. So as long as we don’t use flash… :-)

    • It is nice to realize that Andy Williams was appreciated by a broad audience and appeals to multiple generations! I was a teenager in the 60s and certainly was heavily influenced by psychedelic rock and the British Invasion. Still love it all! :-) But I have a great appreciation and respect for the “old” crooners and their contribution to music. That younger generations can recognize the voice, even if they don’t know who it is that’s singing, is still very nice! You are too young to really remember anything much about Andy Williams as a man, but it’s wonderful you know his music!

  12. Thank you, dear, for bringing all these wonderful classics to mind — both the songs and the Great Crooners and Composers. Now I’ll have those songs stuck in my head today, and that’s a real good thing. :-D

    • I’ve been singing some of the Bacharach/David songs all weekend, too, Natalie. I got a kick out of an episode of Glee (awhile ago now) when they focused on the Bacharach tunes. I don’t think I’m the demographic they were appealing to…so much younger people were probably introduced to those songs for the first time. Good music is just good music! :-)

    • I wish I could adequately describe how much I was impacted (for life) by my friend’s family bringing me to the Hollywood Bowl at that particular juncture in my development. I was so utterly enthralled and impressed, I’ve made it a life-habit of seeking out similar experiences. It brings to mind how important it is to invite and expose young people to the arts. I simply share that thought with you in solidarity…I see what you do with Maddie and Felix (and probably Al and the Princesses) and that’s why I smile so often when you share about your family adventures, Kate. It’s not easy to find time to deliberately expose children to arts enrichment activities! I applaud and encourage from the sidelines! :-)

  13. Dear Debra, I know this statement will truly age me, but I simply can’t respond to most–nearly all–of today’s popular music with any desire to sing it. Quite frankly I mostly can’t understand what’s being sung amidst the noise of the orchestra/band/ensemble. Many years ago, Grandmother Ready would say, “It was so much better years ago.” She said it so often that I vowed I’d never say that. Yet here I am at 76 saying to you, “The music was so much better years ago!!!!” Of course I’m not talking about Stephen Sonheim whose music is as rich and rewarding as any songwriter I’ve ever listened to. Peace.

    • I’m laughing as I read your response, Dee, because now and then I say something similar about music or an aspect of popular culture and then I add the tagline, “I just sounded like my grandmother.” I relate! And we have another common bond, I see. I am a HUGE Sondheim fan. I think there is no one like him! His lyrics are poetry! See? We do have a lot in common, Dee! :-)

  14. I am in awe that you live so close to the Hollywood Bowl and can enjoy so many artists in such an amazing outdoor theater. When our children were younger we would buy two seasons tickets to the philharmonic with the plan to have two of the four family members attend a concert at a time. My husband and my oldest daughter attended one of Marvin’s performances when he was in the city. During the program Marvin stopped and made a comment that it was so great to see such a young person attend and he was thrilled. He was pointing to my daughter who was twelve at the time. He was an amazing artist and I am thrilled that my daughter was able to see and experience his brilliance. She still remembers that moment. Thank you for sharing your memory because it brought up a very special memory for me and my family.

    • What an incredible memory to have of Marvin Hamlisch! That would be so special to have his attention focused on your family, and in particular, your daughter. He was a very personable entertainer and seemed to really enjoy his audience. I liked that about him. We do have easy access to a wide variety of entertainment venues, and that is perhaps at least one advantage to living in Southern California. The challenge is that many of the theaters are in such highly traffic-congested areas that attending can be time consuming. That discourages many of my friends who have simply developed phobias about the traffic. I just accept it, at least for now, and try to focus on how nice it is once we arrive! :-)

  15. A lovely post to celebrate such great talents. Thank you Debra, and I’m not surpirsed you passed on the pricey tickets! I wanted to see Paul Simon last year, but refused to pay the prices, crazy money. Maybe I’m being stubborn, but fo rme that’s the price of a plane ticket and a holiday !!

    • You’re right about the cost evaluation of such pricey tix! Everything is a potential trade-off, and I, too, couldn’t justify that much money for a concert. But I know others who feel differently. Fortunately I can be satisfied with other musical experiences and we have plenty of opportunities. I couldn’t possibly find time to do more anyway! :-)

  16. I have to say this post made my day. When I was young I loved to dance…and sing. It’s funny my co worker and I were down because of the crazy things happ at work so we closed the door and “danced.” It brought both of us to a happy state immediately. Thanks for always supporting me and my blogs.

  17. My friends and I used to listen to Moon River and swoon, but (and I can’t explain why) – I didn’t know I was enjoying Andy Williams!
    Thanks to Frank for the very good BBC tribute.

    We went to the Hollywood Bowl about 5 times last year and I still haven’t blogged about it. Thanks for reminding me. It’s so fun to take a picnic – sip a glass of wine munch on munchies – while listening to the music on a warm summer evening. We saw Bronfman playing Brahms early this summer. It was only 3/4 full but one of my friends went the next week when YoYo Ma played and it was so full that she said some people only got to their seats at interval.

  18. Debra, I have been rather removed from both the news and the Internet in the last few months, and I somehow missed Andy Williams passing. I remember Andy Williams from his Christmas TV specials of my childhood more than anything else. I loved his voice and sense of humor. It does seem that a certain era is passing, and I hate to see it go.
    Thanks so much for this post and all of your others! Karen

  19. Pingback: Is there treasure buried beneath the Hollywood Bowl? Could be! | breathelighter

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