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» Artists - Paul Williams
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Born September 19, 1940, hall-of-fame songwriter, singer and actor Paul Williams was originally from Omaha, Nebraska. He has two brothers. The youngest, Mentor Williams, is also a successful and well-known songwriter/producer. The family moved often during Paul’s first decade relocating to accommodate his father’s job in construction. Paul had changed cities and schools nine times by the time he was in the ninth grade.
A tragic automobile accident claimed the life of Paul’s father when he was 13, an event that split the family and resulted in a move to Long Beach, California where Paul stayed with his aunt and uncle. He had sung in talent shows and weekend gigs throughout high school but began to seriously consider a career in the movie industry when he turned 21.
His first real acting job was a role in ‘The Loved One’, a 1965 film that starred John Gielgud, Jonathan Winters and Rod Steiger. Paul’s dream had come true. At 23, he was finding work playing much younger characters due to his short stature and cherubic appearance. The next year, he played opposite a young Robert Redford in ‘In The Chase’, a part that involved a portion of a song composed by Paul. The number of acting roles being offered soon slowed. He auditioned unsuccessfully for a part as one of The Monkees on the weekly TV series and spent a short time writing for White Whale-owned publishing entity Ishmael Music. After three months, Paul was informed that a career in the music business was unlikely.
In 1967, Paul met songwriter and singer Biff
Rose. They immediately hit if off and began writing together with some success. The “B” side of Tiny Tim’s infamous ‘Tip Toe Through The Tulips’ was ‘Fill Your Heart’, one of the first collaborations from the Rose/Williams team. The same tune was recorded some years later by David Bowie. The pair worked for a while as staff writers for A&M during which time Paul met Chuck Kaye, the head of music publishing. It was Chuck that introduced Paul to writer/arranger Roger Nichols, one of his most successful writing partnerships.
An album called ‘The Holy Mackerel’, released on Reprise Records, included ‘Bitter Honey’, a catchy track co-written with Roger Nichols. The tune foreshadowed the sadly sentimental songs that would become their trademark. Paul’s has recalled that Roger’s influence was “the best thing that ever happened” to him as a songwriter.
A follow up album called ‘Someday Man’, also produced by Roger Nichols, finished a commitment to Reprise Records and was released in 1969. The style that was to become synonymous with Roger and Paul, slightly melancholy lyrics with an uplifting message, populated a legendary publisher’s album known as ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’. During that period Roger Nichols and Paul also wrote ‘Out in the Country’, which was a hit for Three Dog Night.
The association with Karen and Richard Carpenter began around this time. The story goes that Richard heard ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ in a TV commercial for Crocker Bank. Asked if a full-length version of the song existed, the songwriting duo assured him that there was indeed a finished song. With the success of the Carpenters’ rendition of ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ and ‘Out In The Country’, Paul and Roger were suddenly in-demand songwriters.
Other artists that have covered Paul’s songs include Elvis Presley, Diana Ross, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, John Denver, Johnny Mathis, Sarah Vaughan, Bing Crosby, Garth Brooks, Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross, Mel Torme and Frank Sinatra. His songs have also found favor with Country legends including Chet Atkins, Kris Kristofferson, Charlie Pride, Crystal Gayle, Anne Murray, Lynn Anderson, The Oak Ridge Boys, Diamond Rio and Neil McCoy.
Paul’s favorite song, ‘The Rainbow Connection’ was written for Kermit the Frog although diverse talents from Sarah McLachlan, Willie Nelson and Judy Collins have covered it. Willie was prompted by his daughter to record “Rainbow Connection” and he obliged by producing a whole album by that name. This DVD contains the first time Willie and Paul have ever performed this remarkable song.
Paul’s music gifts have found their way onto the big screen as well as on records. In 1973, Paul received an Academy Award nomination for “Nice to Be Around” (co-written with composer John Williams) from the movie “Cinderella Liberty”. “The Phantom of the Paradise”, the Brian DePalma cult classic from 1975 garnered Paul his second nomination. Not only did Paul write the words and music but he also produced the album for the rock cantata, but played the role of the devious evildoer Swan.
In 1976, Paul became the Music Supervisor for the Streisand/Kristrofferson remake of “A Star Is Born” which included the Oscar-winning song “Evergreen”, which was also a huge commercial success. He and co-writer Ken Ascher won the Golden Globe Award for “Best Motion Pictures Score.”
In 1980, Paul began a very fruitful collaboration with Jim Henson and his troupe of Muppets. Once again the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated him for “Best Original Score” and tagged “Rainbow Connection” for a “Best Song” nomination for his contributions to “The Muppet Movie.” The soundtrack album went on to win two Grammy Awards and sold over 1 million units, becoming the biggest selling soundtrack of the year.
Other film credits include the score for “Bugsy Malone” starring Jodie Foster and Scott Baio, a continuing favorite in the world of children’s theater. Paul co-wrote the title song for the movie “The Secret of Nimh,” and contributed to “The End,” “Rocky IV,” “Ishtar,” and “The Sum of All Fears.”
Along with legendary songwriter Carole King, Paul wrote the title song “Stand Back” sung by Joan Osborne for ‘Raising Helen’, the new Kate Hudson film. For the season finale of ‘Ally McBeal’, Williams offered the touching “I Know Him By Heart,” recorded by Vonda Shepard. He may well be best remembered for penning the lyrics to the TV hit series “The Love Boat.”
Paul has continued to act throughout his years as a lyricist and songwriter. What began in 1965 with his portrayal of a 12-year old genius in “the Loved One” blossomed later into well-known roles in “Smokey and the Bandit” and as Virgil in “Battle for the Planet of the Apes.” In 1995, Paul played a depressed, wheel chair bound MS victim who becomes a hostage in “Headless Body in a Topless Bar.” He has also appeared in Oliver Stone’s “The Doors,” a variety of television shows and provided voiceovers for numerous animated characters.
Paul speaks openly about the decade that he lost to substance abuse and is justifiably proud of the 14 years that he has been free of drugs and alcohol. He became certified at UCLA as a drug and alcohol counselor and now spends considerable energy assisting others whose lives have been impacted by drug abuse and/or alcoholism. Paul has appeared on “Primetime Country,” “Geraldo Rivera,” and “Primetime Live” talking about the dangers and devastating effects of drugs and alcohol. His dedication to the field of recovery has resulted in awards form the Friendly House, the Pacific Boys Lodge and Hazelden.
More recently, Paul has set out on the road again with his longtime music director Chris Caswell and saxophonist John Sanders. He continues to touch people’s lives through his humor, honesty and above all his music.
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