Autumn Leaves: Roger Williams

On Saturday, October 8 Roger Williams passed to his eternal rest.  Perhaps it’s appropriate that the great pianist ended his sojourn on this planet traversing the cosmos during autumn. There is a peace about falling autumn leaves.

Louis Jacob Wertz was born October 1, 1924. He served in the US Navy during World War II. At the insistence of David Kapp of Kapp Records, he assumed the name Roger Williams after the religious founder of Rhode Island.

Mr. Williams came to national prominence in 1955 with Autumn Leaves, an instrumental piece, which topped the pop charts.  Two million records of this hit have been sold.

Over the decades this talented pianist who had a love for all types of music had hit after hit:  Born Free, The Impossible Dream, Lara’s Theme, Theme From Somewhere in Time, and the list goes on.

21 Gold and Platinum Albums. Steinway Lifetime Achievement Award. Advocate for music education in elementary/secondary schools.  Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The list continues.

When he announced to the global community that he was ill, he wrote: “What does it all mean? It means I’m in just one more fight — the fight for my life.  And this much I know, this old Navy boxing champion is going for broke. Just watch me!”

He died at his home in Encino of complications from pancreatic cancer.  He was 87.

Did the pianist to the Presidents live well on this planet?  Did he maintain his thirst for life until he closed his eyes in the sleep of death? Did he leave a rich legacy?

Roger was one of the greatest pianists in the world and could play anything from classical music to jazz. He was one of the greatest personalities I’ve ever known. He could touch any audience, from teenagers to senior citizens,” Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah stated.

Roger was a great pianist, a great American, and a great friend. I am saddened by his death, and my sympathy and prayers go out to his family,” Nancy Reagan stated.

In closing: in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor in 1970, Mr. Williams stated,

“If a song’s lyrics say, `I love you,’ then I mean just that when I play the notes. The audience, live or at home, can sense if an artist really means what he plays. I purposely choose music which is warm and which I know I can get across. I know myself.”

G. D. Williams       © 2011

Roger Williams’ Autumn Leaves

Official Website

Born Free

The Impossible Dream