Local Pioneering Music Journalist Dead At 64
Friday, March 29, 2013
Aired 3/29/13 on KPBS News.
Pioneering music critic Paul Williams died Thursday at his home in Encinitas. KPBS culture reporter Angela Carone says Williams was the founder of an influential music magazine called Crawdaddy!.
Pioneering music critic Paul Williams, whose music magazine laid the groundwork for publications like Rolling Stone, died Thursday at his home in Encinitas.
Williams, who founded Crawdaddy! magazine, was 64.
Williams founded the magazine in 1966 while he was a student at Swarthmore College. Over time, Crawdaddy! developed a reputation for smart rock criticism and ultimately paved the way for widely-read music magazines like Cream and others.
The first issue of Crawdaddy! candidly laid out the mission of the publication and its goals for what it would bring to its readers:
You are looking at the first issue of a magazine of rock and roll criticism. Crawdaddy will feature neither pin-ups nor news-briefs; the speciality of this magazine is intelligent writing about pop music. Billboard, Cash Box, etc., serve very well as trade news magazines; but their idea of a review is a hard-driving rhythm number that should spiral rapidly up the charts just as (previous hit by the same group) slides.
Crawdaddy believes that someone in the United States might be interested in what others have to say about the music they like.
Williams was a noted expert on Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Neil Young and the Grateful Dead. He authored many books, including the three-part series, "Bob Dylan: Performing Artist," which is considered a defining work on the singer-songwriter.
Williams stepped away from writing in 1968 to serve as campaign manager for LSD guru Timothy Leary’s bid to become the governor of California.
Obituaries and memorials seasoned with Williams' colorful life experiences have circulated on the web in response to the news of his death.
While traveling with Leary, he "ended up at John and Yoko's Bed-In for Peace in Montreal," according to Billboard.
George Varga, music critic for U-T San Diego, writes:
In 1966, Paul Simon was so impressed by Mr. Williams’ astute review of a Simon and Garfunkel album in Crawdaddy! that he phoned to thank him. Mr. Williams took Simon’s call on a pay phone in the hall of a dormitory at Swarthmore College, where he was then enrolled.
And this, also from Varga's piece:
When The Doors needed someone to stand in front of a microphone and cock a rifle for their recording “The Unknown Soldier,” Mr. Williams was given the honor. The first joint he smoked was offered to him by Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys.
Williams was in a bicycle accident in 1995 and suffered a brain injury, which resulted in early-onset Alzheimer's. Though no official cause of death has been given, reports attribute his death to complications from the bicycle accident.
Williams is survived by his wife, singer-songwriter Cindy Lee Berryhill, and two sons.