Saturday, March 30, 2013

Reflections On Paul Williams

These are a few of the unpublished comments or emails sent to me in the past two days.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...

Jon Landau

"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."

 Brian Wilson

"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 


David Anderle

Some of the best times I ever spent during one of the best periods of my life were spent with Paul. And because of those times we will be forever linked. That makes me both happy and proud. He was such a joy to be with...I am remembering his wonderful smile and the happy meetings you, Paul and I had all those years ago. I will miss him greatly... Love to you Cindy. How lucky he was to have had your love, devotion and strength...Rest gently Paul. Rest gently gentle soul.


Bill Holdship

"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."


  1. On Thursday, I happened to speak of Paul to a friend on the phone, mentioning the fact that he was responsible for Dylan's finest concert performance of Caribbean Wind. On Good Friday, I was so sad to hear of his death. I and many of his Swiss friends will remember him as a most inspiring writer and thinker. Thank you, Paul, and best wishes to you Cindy and your son Alexander!
    Most cordially, Martin Schaefer (Basel, Switzerland)

  2. Deepest condolences. I remember Crawdaddy from the days of Buffalo Springfield's "Again" album. Great mag. Definitely had that Spe-ci-al Ingredient. Bless you for your love for him.

  3. I'm the UCSD neuroscience student who met you at last fall's San Diego Brain Injury foundation, and I saw the news of Paul's passing thanks to the facebook page of Rev. Madson Shockley (who I used to work with in the political arena). My sincere condolences to you and Alexander. Keep on trucking, and I hope as much good can come from this as possible. Take care of yourself and give yourself a chance to grieve during this difficult time.

    Best Regards,

    Dave Carlson

    1. Hi Dave,
      yes I remember Alexander and I meeting you as we were all checking out the moon through the telescope...Thank you for the well wishes. And, I'll be doing a talk w the SD Brain Injury Foundation early August. Maybe I will see you there.
      -cindy lee

  4. Paul had taste and generosity and not a little wisdom. Feeling flush at one particular moment, I pre-ordered at least one book he was then writing (maybe the 20th century's greatest hits, which I rate highly) and I am so glad I did. He wrote better about Dylan than anyone else has done, and I wish he could have heard, written about and published work on the rest of Bob's career, long may it run. At any rate, he has left a frame to influence our listening. And thinking.

  5. Hey Cindy,

    Hey, this is Rick Froberg. Used to live by you guys. We hung out. You introduced me to John Doe once - a big deal for me. I remember when Paul wrecked on 3rd Street and had to wear that goddamn helmet around everywhere. I remember hanging out with Paul and talking about politics and spiritual matters and hearing all of his amazing stories. He gave me a copy of Das Energi, which I devoured. I could not believe this guy - you guys - were hanging around with a bunch of losers like us and that you actually valued what we had to say.

    I had no idea any of this was happening. I've been on the other side of the country for 15 years. I found out the weirdest way. I was billing the Times for an illustration (my first, a proud moment), and while I was checking the page for reference, I saw his obit. I'm very, very sorry to hear about this and I hope you are doing okay. Paul was easily one of the most amazing people I have ever met and he made a big difference to me and my friends. I'm so sorry.



    1. Hi Rick,
      Great to hear from you! Wow, I remember hanging out with really well. Especially when you'd come over and we'd go to Cassady's and pick up some organic fixen's and you showed me how to make that really great cream and spinach over pasta dish. Funny, how we people can be, I thought you and your friends were so cool and why were you hanging out with us.

      Believe or not we still live in those same apartments. Just exactly downstairs from where we were.

      Sunday was the local memorial for Paul... and Travis, Rob and Lia came. I just wanted to cry when I saw them. It was a full circle kinda thing. Paul and I going to Denver's memorial and now so many years later here we were again.

      At any rate, yeah, Paul was an amazing person. And he really dug you and your friends. I think he saw himself in you guys, like he was when he was younger, and doing the commune stuff...whatever. That photo they ran in the NY Times obit, I'd never seen it before, and I thought wow, that looks like a guy that coulda been from 1985 or 1995 or anytime. Just young and cool. How poignant the way you discovered Pauls obit....

      Thank you for writing and sharing your memories and feelings it really brings back a time that was so lovely and innocent and I always really liked you and your friends...

      love back to you,
      cindy lee