By Leslie Criss
“The key to successful aging is to pay as little attention to it as possible.”
– Judith Regan
“We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ’round the bend
My huckleberry friend, moon river, and me.”
– sung by Andy Williams
Seems the older I get the more aware I am of folks’ dying. I’ve heard some good-humored senior citizens say they know it’s going to be an OK day if they don’t find their own names among the newspaper’s obituaries.
I suppose all of this just goes along with the aging process, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
I was saddened Wednesday morning to learn of the passing of crooner Andy Williams. He was 84.
When I was a little girl, I loved Perry Como. He was my favorite. But once I heard Williams sing “Moon River,” he became my second favorite.
I’m not sure what it is about that song that made it a hit, especially for Williams, but it has endured and has become a classic.
It’s been recorded by a long, long list of singers and instrumentalists since it was first penned in 1961 for Audrey Hepburn to sing in the film version of Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
I haven’t a clue as to what Johnny Mercer meant by “huckleberry friend,” and I don’t really care. I choose to believe the theory that he might have been referring to Huck Finn and his closer-than-a-brother friendship with the Widow Douglas’ slave Jim.
When I was in the first grade in the Little Red Schoolhouse on College Street in my hometown, a childhood friend who had a little trouble pronouncing her r’s, said she’d learned a new song. She sang it to me on the playground during recess one day.
In fact, I heard “Moon River” first that long-ago day before I ever heard Andy sing it.
As my friend sang, “Moon Wiver, wider than a mile …,” the bell rang and I was torn between not wanting to be tardy and not wanting to be rude, running to get in line rather than hear the remainder of the song.
I remember thinking what a fine human being Andy Williams must have been when he stood by his former wife, the mother of his children, after she shot and killed a skier named Spider. Sure, Claudine Longet was French and she was beautiful, but I believe Andy was her huckleberry friend simply because he was a nice guy.
When I was in college someone in the dorm had an Andy Williams Christmas album, new at the time, I’m sure. We wore that bit of vinyl out listening and singing along with Andy as we prayed for exams to end and the holidays at home to begin.
We loved Andy, but the highlight of that long-ago Christmas season for those of us on first-floor Hederman was a horribly, horribly flat note the singer hit at the end of “Away in a Manger.” It was awful, yet hysterically funny.
Thanks for the great music, Mr. Williams. Even that one sour note.