Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Adams Ave. Street Festival

 Music Festival
This Saturday April 27th
CLB @The Kensington Cafe

 w/Randy Hoffman on percussion
and Paula Luber on vibraphone

There's a lot of good stuff going down at this festival, if I were you I'd make a day of it. Right after my set and on the Kensington-Library stage next-door is legendary Boston folk-musicians Geoff Muldaur and Jim Kweskin. And later on Gregory Page, Nena Andersen, Steve Harris, Sara Petite and lots of other great songwriters and musicians 
And, it's free...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Midnight Hour

"The midnight hour is the timeless place, where man and woman meet (enemies in the daylight), where dreams take form, the soil, the source, the land of passion and possibility. All friendship has its roots there. In the midnight hour you can talk to presidents and kings, Bob Dylan, Beethoven, Amelia Earhart is there, everyone will take you for what you are, there are no barriers. This is a real place everyone has been to many times.  I'm going to hold you in my arms in the midnight hour."
-Paul Williams, Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles

Rodin (of course)

On the morning of March 27th Alexander and I woke up in Brooklyn in the home of Stew (Passing Strange, The Negro Problem) my pal for many years. We'd been there for several days already and I made plans over the phone with Lenny Kaye for us to move to his place late afternoon. So, out of Brooklyn, a lovely place to stay right on Prospect Park. The night before we'd met Stew at Barbes' a cool and arty music venue just below Park Slope and saw the very melodic and soul expanding Marika Hughes play cello, sing, with her band of friends. We came out to the rising of the nearly full moon.

That night after the concert I got a call from Paul's dear and longtime friend Judith Bragar, it was she that came to us during Paul's hospital stay in February and suggested we look into, just consider, hospice. And she happened to work for hospice. She and Paul met when they were teenagers, school mates, he at Browne and Nichols (and she at it's sister-school for girls) in Cambridge. They were friends and later lovers and then friends again. Now she was his hospice friend. That night she called and said she'd been with Paul for several hours and it looked to her like he may be "transitioning". That meant his breathing had changed. I'd read about that in the hospice pamphlet and online. 

Alexander was already asleep so I waited to talk to him in the morning. "Your dad is getting close now.    We could try to get a flight back this morning... What would you like to do?" He told me he was afraid of seeing his dad like that. I understood. He'd already seen so much, day after day, the deterioration of his dads health. Well, really for years...We walked across the park, me in a daze, what should I do? I talked to Paul's oldest son, Kenta, who lives in the Bay Area (not far from his slightly younger brother Taiyo. Their mother is Sachiko Kenanobu). He thought he could get a flight that morning and get down to Encinitas around noon. 

Alexander and I ate breakfast, then we caught the train into Manhattan and did the thing we had planned to do. We met my actor friend Ken Jacowitz at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He led us in. It was all a terrible blur to me at this point. Ken offered to take Alexander around the different floors and rooms of art. I sat on a bench between Greek and Roman statues, texting family members, waiting to hear if Kenta had arrived at Paul's side and talking to Paul's nurse about how he was fairing. It was odd, surreal and timeless, this place with the marble, the statues and the heart-ache. Ken was a a very good friend through all this, entertaining an 11 year old whose father was dying three thousand miles away.

Finally I got a call from Lenny Kaye, he'd arrived in the city and we met up with him downtown, hopped in his car and took a ride over the bridge and back into Brooklyn to pick up our bags and food and stuff. I gave him the update on Paul, by now Kenta was by his side, keeping me posted by text. Lenny pointed out the old building on Flatbush Ave. that used to be the home of Murray the K, (a radio personality that helped usher in Beatlemania), passing through some neighborhoods of his youth. We got our stuff and rode back into Manhattan, it was dark by now. Lenny, Alexander and I heaved the bags upstairs and made a bee-line to the local BBQ joint. 

What can I say, Lenny was the perfect person to be with on such a night as this. I already knew Lenny when I met Paul (he'd produced my second Rhino album) and I still remember telling him, "I've met this great guy Paul Williams from CRAWDADDY! and I think I'm in love" and Lenny said "I can't think of two people I like more and now you're together, that's great".  Lenny would get me and Paul into Patti Smith shows over the years (he's the guitarist), and Patti was always so respectful and kind and warm to Paul. 

I thought I wouldn't be able to eat, I was pretty much a mess. I just needed a shoulder to lean on and cry on. Lenny ordered me what he got and somehow my appetite came back. Time was moving in strange ways, sometimes it was going fast in a blur, and other moments seemed to stretch really long. Someone was being loud and drunk at the table near us, it seemed forever for them to go.

Lenny's place was stocked with anything Alexander and I would need to feel comfortable and at home for several days. Alexander watched some TV and I was on the phone. Somewhere in there, maybe an hour and a half before Paul passed, Kenta and I tried a Facetime, with our iPhones, so that Alexander and I could talk to Paul. It worked, we saw him, and heard the rapid scary breathing. It had only been 4 and a half days since I'd seen him last and he looked very different, emaciated. Kenta said Paul had not moved all day. Alexander said hello and we told Paul how much we loved him and how beautiful the exhibit of his work had been a few days earlier at the Boo-Hooray Gallery in Soho. How thoughtfully the curator Johan Kugleberg had put the books and the papers and the letters altogether, how lovingly. And how many visitors at the show were astounded by how much Paul had written (and the exhibit didn't show it all). The other news I had for Paul was that two very impressive libraries were interested in taking his books and papers, thanks to the shows curator. A single tear came from Paul's eye, Kenta remarked, and I knew then that Paul understood his life's work would be cared for, that it was now in safe hands, in a place accessible to the readers of the future. 

Finally Kenta said that Paul's breathing had changed. The rest of this is Kenta's story with his father. By  1:35am eastern standard time I received a text from Kenta that Paul had taken his last breath.  Alexander had fallen asleep mere moments before, so I waited to tell him the next morning. The moon was at it's fullness, it shown crazy bright, through the filmy curtains, moving gently . I lit a candle. I said a prayer. I felt his presence. I didn't sleep til dawn.

Alexander wasn't surprised his dad had passed, we talked about it over breakfast. "Sometimes I thought he was faking it," he said. What do you mean, I asked? "I just thought that maybe he would get better, that maybe he was just pretending to be getting worse".  I said I sort of understood that feeling. And told him when my mom died of cancer, when I was eight, that I'd made up a story, that I'd believed for years, that she had been an archaeologist on a mission to dig up old bones and ruins and had contracted Valley Fever. 

We walked by the St. Marks Church and saw that their would be a ceremony that night for Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, the night of Passover dinner. So we went. This felt right. We were staying right around the corner from the church where Paul and I had played a show together back in 1993, he reading from Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles and me singing songs that he'd inspired. Not to mention that this had been the venue for one of Lenny and Patti's first shows together, or the place many beloved beat poets had read their poetry aloud to deep listening ears. I love this place, St. Marks Church. And in the nights ceremony we washed one another's feet and drank wine and broke bread and sang some melodies and uttered some words. And through it all I felt Paul's spirit, his energi, his unbound self, rise and lift and move from that limited encasement called the human body. 
Deo pro vobis

What do you want Paul?  "..want to go up in the sky"
What do you mean? "Good music goes up" 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

McCabes w/Syd Straw

Last friday Alexander and I got invited up to the stage during, my pal, Syd Straws sold out show at McCabe's. I sang Brian Wilson's I Just Wasn't Made For These Times and Alexander joined me on the vocal counterpoint at the end. And sang a few of my own: I Like Cats You Like Dogs (with Syd and Robert Lloyd,Willie Aron and Severo Journacion) and a song for, inspired by, Paul called Readers of the Future. 

This musical hangout was just what the doctor ordered. And it has been a really stressful time. Please forgive me if you've written me and I haven't gotten back to you. 

Me and Severo  (photo: Lisa Nicoson)

Alexander sang great ..(these 2 photos: Keith Martin)

Syd and me. Thank you Syd... 

Here's a link to Mr. Morris' lovely soliloquy about the night
Chris Morris on Paul Williams and our moment w Syd

(Photo Peter Ortel)

Boone, Syd and me

I hope to see some of you guys at Paul's memorial this Saturday in San Francisco...

April 13, 2013
open to all friends and family
The Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin
2325 Union St.
(Park West of Fillmore)
San Francisco, CA 94123
Rev. Madison Shockley to officiate
(donations will be accepted to help pay for memorial)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Memorial for Paul Williams of Crawdaddy

April 13, 2013
open to all friends and family
The Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin
2325 Union St.
(Park West of Fillmore)
San Francisco, CA 94123
Rev. Madison Shockley to officiate
(donations will be accepted to help pay for memorial)


April 7, 2013
small service for local friends and family
Pilgrim United Church of Christ
2020 Chestnut Ave.
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Rev. Madison Shockley Pastor to Officiate

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

More Reflections

Van Dyke Parks

(This is excerpted from a letter to a San Diego journalist, Gary Warth)

Paul and I spent an enormous amount of time together. I introduced him to Brian Wilson and other musical movers and shakers---all to bring his forensic reportage to what had been a mindless adjunct to the record racket 

By the time Paul wrote of my debut album (in his 13th issue), he had helped validate the efforts of many who brought new emphasis on the song-form's political potency in their lyrics.

It's quite true that Paul precedes Jann Wenner in all of this. I remember Jann's coming to my office at WB, seeking advertising revenue. I lobbied to get him some accounts, by which WB weighed in first among such companies to invest in Rolling Stone's future. I remember speaking with Wenner about my regard for Paul, and cautioned Wenner: "...and in your next issue'd be a good idea to staple your pages Paul does...."

Gary----you just can't make up stuff like that.

So many owe a great gratitude to Paul for his pioneering work.
Yet, somehow, I doubt that will be reflected in the response to solicitations for donations to his surviving family. How Cindy Lee has raised their son during Paul's lengthy illness is a major testament to her courage, loyalty  and derring-do. I hope those of us who survived the record industry, and ended up as people of property---will respond to her discrete request for a donation, to make it possible for Paul's heirs to enjoy some benefits worthy of their potential similar invention. Tuitions loom, once the rents have been paid..

Thanks for opening the door for that to
Optimistic as ever,
Van Dyke


Stan Ridgway

RIP Author Paul Williams -The great, passionate visionary writer, publisher, incisive critic, culture observer, art lover, and pioneer for the "rock scribe ". who wrote about music seriously as ART. And it was. A new and pioneering approach when his self published magazine Crawdaddy hit in the stands late 60's . He elevated the value of music and recorded work and made everybody think. - to a level that inspired.and gave it value. And gave us all, listeners, artists and music makers , a place to aspire to.


Wayne Robins (A Brief History of Rock)

And a link to a piece by Wayne Robins (who read from Paul's book Outlaw Blues at the gallery exhibit for Paul's work in New York)


Michael Lydon (Ray Charles: Man and Music)

Just gotta say: Sunday was so good in every way!! Good to see you! Good to see Paul's work so beautifully, interestingly, and respectfully laid out. Good to see so many people who knew Paul in different ways and at different times. Good that you spoke, and that you and Lenny played and sang, and got everybody singing. Good that Ellen, and Wayne read. So good that you encouraged me to do my song. Good to mingle and chat--we met numerous very interesting people.

    You were a great hostess, but in a nutty way I felt that Paul was throwing the party, and he would have loved it, the low key but affectionate feeling, the way we all enjoyed each other, and I think that, modest as he is, he would have been pleased to feel all the admiration and interest in his work and his self.

    Then Sunday night at the Treehouse, you sounded great, so many different colors in your guitar playing and voice, such good songs. You and Lenny make a sympathetic duo, and Alexander piped in just right. I'm sure the whole day added to his sense of what a fine man his Dad is.

    My father was stricken with Parkinsonism when I was about four or five, and for the rest of his life, his mobility and his voice were always, slowly getting worse. Perhaps toughest of all, his stiffened face lost its  ability to show much emotion, so we all often had little idea what he was thinking and feeling.

    Yet I always, and today more than ever, love and admire my Dad, and I got from him everything a young fellow needs to get from a father. I bet this Sunday was an important day for Alander to know how all kinds of people respect and admire and love his father (and his Mom!!).