These are a few of the unpublished comments or emails sent to me in the past two days. I think you readers here, fans of my husbands, will enjoy and get as much comfort from these words as I have...
"Out here in Australia on a tour at the moment. But Johan and many others have contacted me this morning to report on Paul's peaceful passing. My years of really knowing Paul were more than forty years ago. But during those few short years we changed each other's lives--he certainly changed mine more than the other way around. From the day he walked into the old Briggs and Briggs Records and Instruments store in Harvard Square, where I was a high school student with a summer job behind the counter, we started talking and talking and talking about music, music, nothing but music. He was trying to get the store to carry the first issue of Crawdaddy! and I convinced my boss to let him put it by the register. When he came back the following week, I had read it and I volunteered. With my classic teenage arrogance, I announced that I could do better than any of the writers in that issue, including him. He responded, "Ok, Mr. Bigmouth, give it a try/" Which is how I came to be a rock critic.
During the next couple of years Paul and I had a very warm but contentous relationship (he would say black, I would say white, he would say Doors, I would say Mitch Ryder, and on we went). Along the way, he taught me the art of editing, he taught me too that it was OK to listen to suggestions from others, and he taught me that not every sentence, period, and comma that I came up with was perfect and untouchable. He would bore right in on the weaknesses of these early pieces and he was one of the two or three major figures who helped transform me into the writer I became (for better or worse!). He was simply a great teacher and I was very lucky that for a very memorable time, I was his student.
I am thinking of you, Alexander, and above all Paul today. And I extend to you and Alexander my greatest possible sympathy."
"Paul Williams was just a kid when he came to my house when I was making SMiLE. We talked a lot and I played him acetates of my new music. He really dug it and I'll always remember that. He started Crawdaddy and wrote a lot of great books. Paul died this week and I want to say I'm sorry to his family for their loss."
Love and Mercy, Brian
"didn't know Paul Williams nearly as well as some of my friends did. I actually know his wife better; she claims I wrote the first national magazine feature article anyone ever did on her, and I guess she would know. But I did meet Paul on several occasions, and he was always the nicest and most encouraging fellow you'd ever want to meet.
Jim DeRogatis and I spent an afternoon with him when Jim dragged me along on his Lester-based California trek for the Bangs biography. Paul took us to that great taco stand in Encinitas, during which I mentioned "Everything Is Broken" was my favorite new Dylan song – it remains one of my theme songs to this day – but I'd yet to hear it live. So, when we got back to his house, Paul disappeared into a room for a few minutes and then returned to hand me a cassette with two recent live versions of that song on it. Just a very nice thing for him to do.
I saw him at damn near every Southern California Dylan show I attended in the '90s...and I attended a lot; he later perfectly explained the obsession many of us shared to a reporter with something like: "If Shakespeare was still alive and producing plays at the Globe Theatre, wouldn't you try to see as many as you could?"
I later saw him as an attentive audience member at a panel in LA about the subject of power pop. During the Q&A session, Paul said: "None of you have mentioned the one element I consider essential to all power pop and that's perfect vocal harmonies." One of the panelists actually responded that he didn't know that the vocals were so important compared to other things (but then, this same panelist had earlier termed AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" a "power pop" song, so whatever). Paul just looked a little bewildered. But, ever the gentleman, he said nothing in response. I just laughed.
I also remember driving by a TicketMaster outlet around 10 a.m. one morning, just as tix for a week’s worth of Dylan shows at a relatively intimate LA theater were going on sale. Tix were the last thing on my mind that morning, since I was in the process of moving (I was able to score one later) – but when we drove by the theater, there was Paul Williams right at the front of the line with all his fellow Dylan fanatics. It made me smile.
Not long after, Cindy Lee phoned me one afternoon from Legs McNeil's home when he was in town working on his porno industry book. (It’s funny the little details one remembers…and forgets.) I told her about my recent devastating house fire – and she told me she'd had her "own house fire." She explained she meant it figuratively, telling me about Paul's biking accident. It was so sad to read about the deterioration of such a brilliant mind over the years, although Cindy's blog made it apparent that there was still a strong spirit inside that damaged body. His death two nigts ago wasn't a total shock but it was none the less sad.
Many people owe Paul Williams a debt of gratitude for guiding us from the innocence of the great 16 Magazine to the notion of rock music as a serious subject, one worthy of study and reflection.
Best wishes to his son, Alexander, and Cindy Lee Berryhill who remained true to those wedding vows of “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part” as gallantly and steadfastly as anyone I've known."