The 21st century Paul Williams no longer seeks fame and publicity.
But without TV or mass public appearances, some wondered where Paul Williams disappeared to. Some even had believed that he had passed-on. Upon discovering that Paul Williams had not left the world too soon, film-maker Stephen Kessler made a documentary about him. The documentary was titled: "Still Alive" and released just last year in theatres and this past February 2013 in DVD format.
Strangely, and only further confusing the matter, another music-associated Paul Williams died just three weeks ago. The other Paul Williams was the founder of music-critic magazine Crawdaddy and he passed away on March 31, 2013. With all due respect and condolences offered to the other Paul Williams and fans of Crawdaddy magazine, this blog is about the singer/actor/songwriter Paul Williams.
So Paul Williams is still... still alive!
Paul Williams is an excellent singer and performer, but his own singing abilities are perhaps outshined by his accomplishments as a songwriter. His career as a proverbial 'tunesmith' was launched fortuitously by a song he wrote for a bank commercial titled "Wedding"
I don't want to type out a long history of William's entire career of songs or list all his TV appearances. His recent movie does a much better job of talking about his life and career than we can do here in this blog. Suffice it to say, his songwriting accomplishments are numerous and impressive. So here's a much-abbreviated list of his songs with some links: Ordinary Fool. An Old Fashioned Love Song. Rainy Days and Mondays. And most notably: Evergreen, co-written with Barbara Streisand for the movie A Star is Born and won the Oscar for best song in 1976. Paul Williams, standing 5'2'', remembered to thank the little people when he accepted his Oscar.
But before you get all 'Love, soft as an easy chair' on me, here's where i wanted to go with this whole blog....
There's a strange little bit of irony attached to Paul Williams, and it is not just the fact he is still... still alive. He also had a career as an actor for a while. He performed well in the sequels of Planet of the Apes and Smokey and the Bandit. However, as an actor his greatest and most prominent movie role is undoubtedly playing the villainous Swan in the movie Phantom of the Paradise.
Written and Directed by Brian De Palma, Phantom of the Paradise was intially a box-office flop (except in Winnipeg for some reason), but the movie later achieved success by building a following as a cult-film. After a few showings on late-night television or 'Fright Night' halloween-themed shows, the movie and its characters became familiar in the culture. Slowly, over the years, more and more fans began to rally around the movie. Thanks to it's creative and innovative director and it's impressive soundtrack of songs, written by Paul Williams himself, a movie that in 1974 was a flop now enjoys a stunning 90%+ rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is a cult classic. And that is partially due to Paul's performance in the movie.
And now... about forty years after playing the horrible, music-stealing Swan, what is Paul Williams doing now?
He's the president of ASCAP!
It's true. Paul Williams is the President and Chairman of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
This means that the same guy who played the vile song-thief 'Swan' is now in charge of defending the rights, royalties and copyrights of musicians, composers, publishers and performers of all kinds of music, and all over the entire U.S.A.! It's almost as ironic as Ice-T playing a TV cop.
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Update February 13, 2014: It has been about ten months since this blog entry was first published, and since then a lot has happened concerning the inimitable Paul Williams. So much that this blog entry deserves an update.
Unfortunately, the movie 'Still Alive' did not capture what happened next. In the 1990s, in recovery from addiction, Williams resumed his career by writing catchy songs for movies and television, most famously writing the song Rainbow Connection for the Muppet Movie. So when the documentary ends with a caption explaining that Paul Williams had been elected president of ASCAP in 2009, with that ending, there seemed an unspoken assumption that it's going to be ASCAP duties, muppet-royalties and the occasional cartoon for the remainder of Paul Williams life. But shortly afterwards, and during the promotional tour for 'Still Alive', Williams found himself being included into a major project by the French Electronica robot-duo Daft Punk.
Far from being forgotten or presumed deceased, Paul Williams is, understandably, now once again a sought-after song-writer and collaborator for both movies and original musical works. He is the living epitome of the idea that truly good songwriters don't just outlive their popularity, but actually get better if they keep themselves involved in their craft, and steer their minds clear of the more damaging addictions of society today. If we at Very Us Mumblings ever wanted a comeback story, this would have to be the one. Paul Williams is back, not just from an addiction, but to the forefront of songwriting.
Paulwilliams Official Website
Gratitude & Trust (Recovery Blog) WebSite
Links of the other actors in Phantom of The Paradise:
Phoenix: Jessica Harper www.jessicaharper.com
Beef: Gerrit Graham - www.gerritgraham.com short interview on his role can be found here.
Peter Elbling - www.peterelbling.com (did an interview for StudioKaiju in 2010)
Archie Hahn - actor/comedian
Jeffrey Comanor - musician
Winslow Leach/The Phantom -- William Finley -- Deceased April 14, 2012
Philbin -- George Memmoli -- Deceased 1985