Sunday, December 9, 2012

If you are of any decent age you have heard the songs that this guy composed. If you have ever gone for 5 floors in an elevator, you have heard his songs. For the past 15 years we all thought he was dead. Even the encyclopedia, Wikipedia said he was dead. He is small in stature, only 5 feet 2 inches tall. At one time in the 70’s he was everywhere. Yes I know some of you weren’t even born in the seventies. Thanks for reading an old guy’s rant everyday. Oh! His name is Paul Williams.
Evergreen recorded by Barbara Streisand in 1976 won an Academy Award. Then An Old Fashioned Love Song that the band Three Dog Night recorded was popular. There was Rainy Days and Mondays that the Carpenters made a hit. Paul got Hermit The Frog an Award when the puppet recorded The Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie in 1979.
He recorded his own voice singing “I Won’t Last A Day Without You.” At the time one critic called him, “The craggy forlorn voice of a sad munchkin.” He did become a celebrity anyway. He admits that he was a tiny media whore. He appeared on game shows like “The Match Game,” Variety shows like “The Mike Douglas Show,” you have to be old to remember that one. Talk shows loved him too. Johnny Carson loved him so much that he was on the “Tonight Show” fifty times.
Then there were the acting roles like his appearance on the old TV show, “The Odd Couple.” and “The Love Boat” also “Police Woman.” So, don’t put yourself down and say you can’t achieve things because of your looks. Talent is talent and is recognized if you are good. Then by the end of the 1980’s Williams all but disappeared and no one really missed him.
Filmmaker, Steven Kessler, a long time fan of Paul recently filmed a documentary about Paul called, “Still Alive.” It is an affectionate look at the songwriter’s assent and decent from society. It is all about the recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. It has put Williams ironically right back in the place that he fled, the spotlight. Williams appears in the film even though he did not want to participate in the film at first.
He admits that there is nothing more pathetic than some little old man saying, “Please sir, please may I have another moment of fame?” Three years ago he was elected the President of ASCAP , the organization that represents music writers and publishers. He was nominated 6 times for an Oscar and won only once for the song “Evergreen.” So, he should be respected in the industry.
Born in Omaha, Williams was always the smallest kid in class. He was 13 when his father an Architect died. He was then tossed around to live with an Uncle in California. After all that, he admits that he did not have any musical education as a child. He just played enough at the piano to be able to write his tunes down. Thus his songs had a refreshing simplicity.
His greatest hit was originally written for a bank commercial till “The Carpenters” did their own version of “We’ve Only Just Begun” something like the popularity Whitney Houston gave to Dolly Parton’s song, “ I Will Always Love You.” His song was for a place called Croker Bank in 1970. Then the flood gates opened up for him when Three Dog Night recorded “Out In The Country.” Helen Reddy sang his “You And Me Against The World.” Even David Bowie recorded Paul Williams songs.
Paul out of all his famous songs admits that ‘Rainbow Connection” is his personal favorite. His vulnerability came out through his music. He was a little guy all his life overlooked by all so he poured his emotions out in his lyrics. Well, even if we look like a rock star, we all felt and sang along with his thoughts and words. That was the public’s connection. His songs were a kind of therapy for all and we still hum along in retrospect.
I only wish the words in the new songs the kids are listening too were as meaningful as some of his stuff. Paul was able to go from being a different looking man to being a special celebrity. All of a sudden his lack of height didn’t matter. Even tall busty beautiful blonds wanted him. He realized they didn’t love him, just his bank account. After not writing anything in 20 years he is now a drug counselor.

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