Roger Williams - Songs


Roger Williams (October 1, 1924 - October 8, 2011) was a highly acclaimed virtuoso pop and jazz pianist who became famous beginning in the mid 1950s. With a unique, easy listening style that combines elements of classical music, jazz, and traditional pop, he was an accomplished improviser and arranger who made his mark in a variety of genres spanning pop, country, and soft rock. Best known for the shimmering "Autumn Leaves" (1955), his many signature songs also included his epic piano renditions of "Born Free" (1966) and various other movie themes.

Born Louis Jacob Weertz in Omaha, Nebraska and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, he began playing the piano at age 3 and by his preteens, had learned to play 12 other instruments. While still in his teens, he played piano professionally at a local restaurant and worked summers as a lumberjack. At his father's urging, he also took up boxing and later won the middleweight championship at his base while enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He began his formal musical studies at Drake University in Des Moines where he majored in piano. While still serving in the Navy, he completed his bachelor's degree at Idaho State University and then earned his master's at Drake before moving to New York City to study jazz piano at Juilliard. His first big breaks came in 1951-1952 when he won two contests, first on "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts," followed by Dennis James' "Chance Of A Lifetime." He was discovered soon after by David Kapp of Kapp Records who signed him to his label and gave him a new professional name, Roger Williams.

Williams debuted in 1955 with his stunning arrangement of "Autumn Leaves," a sung jazz-pop standard written in 1945 with music by Joseph Kosma, which soon after went gold and became the first-ever piano instrumental to top the Pop/Rock charts. His other greatest hit came in 1966 with "Born Free," the title theme from the big cat biopic starring Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers, and Elsa the lioness, which topped the Adult Contemporary chart and made the Pop/Rock Top 10. Williams' long string of hits from both charts also included "Wanting You" (1955), "La Mer (Beyond The Sea)" (1956), "Two Different Worlds" (1956), "Almost Paradise" (1957), "Till" (1957), "Arrivederci, Roma" (1958), "Near You" (1958), "Maria" (1961), "Autumn Leaves - 1965" (1965), "Lara's Theme From 'Dr. Zhivago'" (1966), "Sunrise, Sunset" (1967), "Love Me Forever" (1967), "More Than A Miracle" (1967), and "The Impossible Dream" (1968). His final charting song came in 1977 with "Main Theme From 'King King'" which was an Adult Contemporary Top 40 hit.

Roger Williams continued to perform and record actively up to his passing. Over his long career, he released dozens of recordings that included 21 gold- and platinum-certified albums. Known as the "Pianist to the Presidents," he performed for every U.S. Commander-in-chief from Harry Truman through George W. Bush. Williams' numerous honors and accolades included a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and being inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame (2010).



Disclosure: The following links will take you to various online merchants outside of that sell recordings and other merchandise for the performing artist featured on this page. Please note that these are referral or affiliate links from which may receive, at no additional cost to you, a commission if you should make any purchases through them.


To listen to a song clip, click any song title that has a speaker icon. This will take you to a list of links to CD and/or MP3 product pages from one or more online merchants that have sound samples.

Roger Williams

Jump to:
Previous Artist | Next Artist