Andy Williams in 1967

The cheap seats on Tuesday night

The week that was ended as it began, with one of those happened-upon moments that are as indigenous to Manhattan as is Mitt Romney to an off-shore banking account: strolling up Broadway near Lincoln Center I was on a cell phone call when I heard the familiar strains of Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer.  The tune was being played by some guy on a tenor saxophone, and as I passed, something resembling happiness welled up inside.  I don’t why—the utter frivolity of the tune, nostalgia, the feel of not-quite-cool autumn air on my face, or a combination of all three.

Sometimes things hit you in a funny way.  Tuesday night I was cutting across 44th Street on the way to the Eighth Avenue C train; just before Broadway I heard the unmistakable sound of operatic voices.  For me, Times Square with its congestion of tourists milling about on what they think is a mall, is a must-to-avoid, but the sound was magical, transformative.  It turned out to be the Metropolitan Opera’s live broadcast of Donizetti’s ‘Elisir d’Amore.  Confession: thought I’d never seen the opera, nor had advance clues of this event I was secretly proud of myself for figuring out which opera it was based solely on the scene being shown.  Another confession: standing on the intersection watching the screens as I waited for the lights to change I experienced a pleasure at odds with the neighborhood.  The serendipity continued—once I reached the station, my train arrived within minutes.

The sad coincidence came later, when I found out Andy Williams had died earlier in the day.  Call me Mr. Schmaltz, but I loved him to death. His voice was a gift of pleasure from childhood, be it on the radio or on television (serious boyhood crush on the face—that smile!—and his talent: guilty).  Silvery, bright, burnished, effortless: was it possible that a single voice could embody all those qualities in such a way that made you yearn for the time when you’d hear it again?  Along with Jack Jones, Williams was the standard bearer for the kind of elegant high-baritone sound that made us all, if not want to be singers, then at least own the records .  They won’t come around like that anymore, and this week, with every TV news retrospect of Williams, these lyrics to one of his hits rings undeniably true for me this week:


The shadow of your smile

When you are gone,

Will color all my dreams

And light the dawn.

RIP, and thanks.