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October 8, 2012

Andy Williams, last of the great crooners

When singer Andy Williams died a week ago, it truly was an end of an era.

It is hard to imagine the power that the male crooners held over our pop culture — say — during the last 50 years or so. They sang the soundtrack of our lives. They helped those of us guys who needed a little extra “nudge” make our first feeble forays through the forests of femininity. They sang us through good times and bad times and back to the good times. They crooned our way through the sentimental photo album of life’s milestones.

Yes, they really did all of these things. Except I doubt if they ever really knew it.

The era of the male crooner is now gone. For my parents’ generation it was easygoing Bing Crosby and ring-a-ding-ding man Frank Sinatra. For guys my age we shared our lives with many of the great Italian crooners of the Baby Boom generation. Jerry Vale, singing “Pretend You Don’t See Her,” the ironic love theme from the uber-violent movie “Goodfellas;” Tony Bennett making us all want to visit the “city by the bay;” and Dean Martin’s “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime.”

I always wanted to be Dean Martin. I thought he was the handsomest guy on television. What a voice he had. And our favorite singing barber, Perry Como, whose dreamy 1970 song, “It’s Impossible,” became the surprise hit of that hard-edged rock ‘n’ roll summer.

And so many other crooners, all now gone, come to my mind. Vaughn Monroe’s sublime “Dance Ballerina Dance,” Don Cornell’s robust 1952 bell ringer, “I’m Yours,” and Frankie Laine’s plaintiff “I Believe” are all standouts. And a tip of the hat to Vic Damone, Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, Brook Benton, Eddie Fisher and too many more to even begin to list.

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