Singer Andy Williams, who died Tuesday at age 84, was best known for popularizing American classics like “Moon River,” “Days of Wine and Roses” and the holiday favorite “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” in the Sixties. A couple decades later, another Williams chestnut gave a prominent U.K. band its biggest hit: “Can’t Get Used to Losing You,” by second-wave ska legends the Beat (or the English Beat, as they are known in America).
Williams’ 1963 recording was a favorite of Beat frontman Dave Wakeling’s father, and bass player David Steele (later co-founder of the Fine Young Cannibals) recommended the band cover it as a change of pace in its frenetic live show. “It made for a smooth, unexpected break in our post-punk set,” Wakeling tells Rolling Stone. “It’s a challenge to sing it like Andy Williams, and yourself at the same time!”
Despite the lush orchestration of Williams’ original (the recording topped Billboard‘s Easy Listening chart for four weeks in the U.S.), Wakeling says the song was a natural for a ska makeover. “The bass line translated into a reggae feel effortlessly, the pizzicato strings became guitar skanks, and the melody floated over the top,” he says. “I think [Beat saxophonist] Saxa’s solo is one of his finest – playful and poignant, matching the song perfectly.”
Although “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” appeared on the Beat’s 1980 debut album, it didn’t become a hit until they released it as a single three years later, right before their breakup. The song remains a staple for the Los Angeles-based Wakeling, who is currently touring the U.S. with his new English Beat lineup in support of The Complete Beat retrospective box set.
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“Thanks, Andy,” Wakeling says, “for all the years of pleasure your smooth, cool tubes have brought us.”
Watch a tuxedo-clad Dave Wakeling and the Beat perform “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” in 1983:
Watch Andy Williams perform “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” in 1969: