Roger Williams, pianist, passed away this October.
His “Autumn Leaves” was “the most successful song of Williams’ career, and the first No.1 instrumental song on the Billboard charts of the rock era.”
His obituary reminds us that “he was a rare instrumental pop artist. Between 1955 and 1972 Williams had 22 hit singles — including “Born Free” in 1966 — and 38 hit albums.” He was the first pianist to have a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
The first recording run-through of “Autumn Leaves” ran slightly over three minutes, so he was asked to speed it up because disc jockeys at the time wouldn’t play a song longer than that length, Williams often said. The second time around, the song came in at 2:59.
“I owed two months’ rent on our apartment,” Williams said in a 1996 Times interview. “I had a wife and a baby at the time. My fondest dream for ‘Autumn Leaves’ was that it would pay the rent. And boy, it’s been doing it ever since.”
“He went on to record more than 100 albums and performed in concert as recently as March. He claimed to know 10,000 songs by heart, often fielding requests.”
Here, Natalie Cole sings the beautiful “Autumn Leaves.”