Remembering Roger Williams, movie theme maestro and champion of Easy Listening radio

Remembering Roger Williams, movie theme maestro and champion of Easy Listening radio

News_Joe_Roger Williams_October 2011

During the heyday of Easy Listening radio, Roger Williams — who passed away Saturday at age 87 — was positively inescapable.

That's not to say that he wasn't highly visible (and ubiquitously audible) elsewhere — atop record charts, on TV variety shows and in concert halls throughout the world. But if you're of a certain age, you can't help but be reminded when you hear his name of a time (roughly speaking, from the mid 1960s to the late '80s) when all you had to do to temporarily escape from workaday stress, long commutes or dreary household chores was turn the dial or punch a button to hear stations like "Bayou Radio" WBYU in New Orleans or Houston's KYND ("Kind 92"), where the playlist was limited to the likes of André Kostelanetz, 101 Strings, Ferrante & Teicher and, yes, Roger Williams.

Even as my musical tastes evolved from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to Bruce Springsteen and The Police, I frequently returned to Easy Listening stations — when I was alone, naturally, and not in the company of friends who'd make predictably derisive comments about "elevator music"— in search of instrumental versions of popular movie themes. I seldom had to wait very long to hear a selection from some soundtrack because, as I recall, the '60s and '70s were a golden age for movie themes that were recorded by literally dozens of Easy Listening artists. Even themes from movies that hardly anyone had seen — like the themes from Pieces of Dreams and The Picasso Summer — remained fixtures for decades on Easy Listening playlists.

Roger Williams recorded an abundance of movie music, scoring hits with themes from such diverse films as Born Free, Somewhere in Time, Summer of '42, The Godfather, The Rose, Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, Dr. Zhivago — "Laura's Theme," my late father's all-time fave — and on and on and on. You don't often hear music like that on commercial broadcast radio these days. But trust me, if you heard it then, you remember it still. 

Watch Williams play "The Rose" and "Somewhere in Time" below: