When Julie Andrews accepts the American Film Institute’s life achievement award on Thursday (June 9), she’ll become the fifth winner of that prestigious award who is primarily known for music and/or movie musicals, following Fred Astaire (1981), Gene Kelly (1985), Barbra Streisand (2001) and composer John Williams (2006).
Andrews was first announced as the AFI life achievement award recipient way back on Sept. 20, 2019. She was to receive the honor on April 25, 2020, but on March 7 of that year the AFI announced that, owing to a strange new pandemic, “the event will be rescheduled for a date in early summer.” We all know how that turned out. The event was canceled in both 2020 and 2021.
Andrews has had a very unique history on the Billboard charts. She starred in two Broadway musicals with cast albums that topped the Billboard 200, as well as two films with soundtracks that topped that chart, but her only album under her own name to make the chart is Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, the soundtrack to a 1962 TV special in which she starred with another future legend, Carol Burnett. It peaked at No. 85. (The special won two Emmys, including outstanding program achievement in the field of music.)
Andrews has also had only one entry on the Billboard Hot 100, “Super-cali-fragil-istic-expi-ali-docious,” a novelty song from Mary Poppins on which she teamed with Dick Van Dyke and The Pearlies. The tongue-twister single reached No. 66 in 1965.
Andrews had a glorious singing voice, but for some reason it didn’t translate to the pop music world. Still, her work in soundtracks and cast albums can’t be denied. In 2011, she received a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy. Burnett wrote the appreciation that appeared in the Grammy program book that year, saying “Her talent is unsurpassed. She’s a consummate actress and her voice is a gift from the gods.”
Andrews is three-quarters of the way to EGOT status. She has won two Emmys, two Grammys (plus that lifetime achievement award) and an Oscar, but has yet to win a Tony, despite three nominations. She appeared to finally be headed for a Tony win in 1996 for her lead role in the Broadway adaptation of Victor/Victoria, but when she was the only person from the show to receive a nomination, she famously declined the nod, telling a matinee audience two days after the nominations were announced: “I have searched my conscience and my heart and find that I cannot accept this nomination, and prefer instead to stand with the egregiously overlooked.”
That rather arch phrasing was mocked, but Andrews’ principled stand was admired. Andrews remained on the ballot, but having signaled disinterest in the award, it was no surprise when she lost to Donna Murphy for The King and I.
Despite that kerfuffle, Andrews remains strongly identified with Broadway. She won an Emmy in 2005 (outstanding non-fiction series) for hosting Broadway: The American Musical on PBS. She has received two Grammy nominations for best traditional pop vocal performance, both for Broadway collections – Julie Andrews Broadway/Here I’ll Stay (1997) and Julie Andrews – Broadway – the Music of Richard Rodgers (1995). (Richard Rodgers, of course, was the composer of The Sound of Music and Cinderella.)
Andrews has won a slew of career achievement awards, including the Kennedy Center Honors (2001), a Life Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild Awards (2006) and a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy (2011). Now, as she receives the AFI life achievement award, pundits are already looking ahead to who might be the next film music luminary to receive the honor.
Here are eight soundtracks or cast albums Andrews recorded that made waves on the Billboard 200.