he went on to a prolific writing career, authoring over 25 books and notably penning Rolling Stone's 1975 feature on the now-legendary sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick.
We are not the same person, seen through others’ eyes. They see us as one, but, really, we are legion:
Philip K. Dick Fan Site
Paul Williams Died Last Night
… After many years of thinking of Paul Williams as mainly the Philip K. Dick Estate’s executor, I looked into what he had also accomplished in his life and I was amazed at what he had started, especially in Rock journalism (Crawdaddy!) and where he had been and what he’d seen. Things that I’d read about and he was there in person. I also saw that he wrote many books and after reading about his most famous ones on his site http://www.paulwilliams.com/, I purchased from ebay a used copy of Das Energi and read it in a few short hours but I was enthralled with the simplicity and the genius in that book about how to live a more happy and fulfilled life….
Paul Williams: at the birth of Rock n Roll journalism
His wife, Cindy Lee Berryhill posted this on Facebook four hours ago:
Cindy Lee Berryhill Rock-writer Paul S Williams, author and creator of CRAWDADDY magazine, (and my husband), passed away last night 10:30pm PST while his oldest son was holding his hand and by his side. It was a gentle and peaceful passing.
I was not close to Paul Williams (no relation), but I knew him, and, even more importantly, I knew OF him. So let me write this in the only way I know how.
I finally met Paul at the wedding of Theodore Sturgeon’s son Robin, in Berkeley, California in the mid-1990s. This was before he married Cindy Lee, and fathered a young son, who survives him. It was also before his 1995 bicycle accident (about which more, later). But I had known OF Paul Williams for many years, and, arguably, he showed up at a critical time in my development as a writer — when I was deciding to develop AS a writer.
And here is where I have to try and turn the pig iron of experience into the steel of remembrance. Just last Sunday, a ‘celebration’ was held for Paul, who was unable to attend, for reasons that will become apparent.
Boo-Hooray is in New York. Paul died in San Diego.
So, let’s start here, in the standard American pica typewriter and mimeograph magazine of science fiction fandom, the APAs [emphasis added]:
Crawdaddy Vol. 1, no. 1, page 1
February 7th, 1966
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 specialty of this magazine is intelligent writing about pop music. … Crawdaddy believes that someone in the United States might be interested in what others have to say about the music they like.
… This is not a service [e.g. trade/industry] magazine. We fully expect and intend to be of great use to the trade: by pushing new 45’s that might have otherwise been overlooked … but we are not a service magazine. The aim of this magazine is readability. We are trying to appeal to people interested in rock and roll, both professionally and casually. If we could predict the exact amount of sales of each record we heard, it would not interest us to do so. If we could somehow pat every single pop artist on the back in a manner calculated to please him and his fans, we would not bother. What we do want to do is write reviews and articles that you will not want to put down, and produce a magazine that you will read thoroughly each week. And we think we can do it.
That was probably the crucial moment. Everything that came before and came after that in Paul Williams’ life was a result of his taking a science fiction fanzine sensibility into rock and roll. From that, arguably, comes Rolling Stone, came Phonograph Record Magazine (the first free paper), came Creem, and, ironically, came Crawdaddy, the slick newsstand magazine that was made of the title Paul had sold, which was, when I was in college and about to “meet” Paul the first time in Rolling Stone, the best magazine in America. But a completely DIFFERENT America than Crawdaddy had begun in at Swarthmore College in 1966.
In fact, in 1978 — back when I really THOUGHT I was going to be a rock journalist — I had just turned in a batch of reviews that had been sent back to rewrite as “not so nice” when Crawdaddy turned into FEATURE, and then vanished without a trace.
1978: My subscription informed me that Crawdaddy
was now “Feature.” Feature folded after a couple
issues and I think I got several issues of a science
magazine to fulfill the subscription.
My reviews vanished with Crawdaddy.
But before it all got out of control, let’s hear what the LA WEEKLY has to say about that little ‘zine launched in a dorm room:
Early readers sensed what Williams was trying to accomplish. Paul Simon called him in his freshman dorm about the review he wrote of Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence LP. He said it was the first intelligent thing that had been written about the duo’s music to date. Simon was an ambitious artist who’d spent too many years as a contract songwriter. He recognized that the attention of critics like Williams could help carve a niche for music that aspired to more than the Billboard charts.
Soon after the third issue of Crawdaddy!, Williams dropped out of Swarthmore to devote all his time to his new venture; at the end of the magazine’s first year, he moved to New York. Within two years, its circulation had risen to 45,000 copies. He was on to something….
Ah. Cultural events. This is not to praise or condemn “rock journalism,” but to note its genesis. Prior to Crawdaddy, “rock” coverage had been confined to PR, industry sales buzz and TigerBeat-style manufactured teen idol magazines.
Yes. We realize that this is somewhat
anachronistic to a 1966 time frame.
It is my contention that most rock journalism is exactly what you’d expect when you unloose a generation of stoned English lit majors onto a generation of really bad lyric poetry (rhyming, almost exclusively) set to primal rock instrumentation. I will make no further comment on the genre, except to say that if Lester Bangs REALLY REALLY hated it, I generally took that as a recommendation to buy it, and I was seldom disappointed.
But that was the critical moment of young Paul’s life. Crawdaddy galvanized an unspoken desire for a deeper discussion of rock and roll, and, given that the Beatles were about to record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (and yes, obscurantists, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds was also in the works) the timing was extremely serendipitous.
1967’s Sgt. Pepper (click to enlarge)
The LA WEEKLY notes:
A staggering cast of characters began their careers at Crawdaddy!Paul McCartney’s future wife, Linda Eastman, was the magazine’s first staff photographer. Peter Guralnick, Elvis Presley’s biographer and perhaps the best-known writer on 20th-century American popular music, published his first music criticism in Crawdaddy! No. 7. During a May 1967 visit to San Francisco, Williams met with a young journalist thinking of starting a biweekly rock paper. That was Jann Wenner, who soon founded Rolling Stone. Jon Landau began writing critical essays for Crawdaddy! at age 19, but Wenner quickly stole him away and made him one of the first editors at his magazine. Landau went on to even greater success as the manager and producer credited with making Bruce Springsteen a star. Williams’ path, however, didn’t resemble that of the bands he chronicled or the staff he assembled.
Be it a lack of interest or ability, he was not the type to manage a business. “I was a hippie in the 1960s,” he says, “and fairly neurotic or nervous about becoming part of the establishment, or somehow having my values changed or compromised in that way.” The dropout ethic began to exert its pull. Proximity to drugs and “hip” culture’s other vices didn’t help. Besides, Crawdaddy! was no longer a lone voice. Even The New York Times was covering rock. Williams saw little reason to continue.
“I’m getting a little bored, at times, pretending to tell you about music,” he wrote in issue No. 18, “and I’d like very much to advance toward the stage where we all sort of tell each other.” After the magazine’s 19th issue, in October 1968, Williams left New York to join a commune in Northern California’s Mendocino County. He was only 20 years old. Though Crawdaddy! continued to publish under various owners until 1979, the rest of its run was essentially a long goodbye….
I include long draughts of this swill because I have never been able to stomach it, since I wrote Press Kit interviews for A&M Records in Charlie Chaplin’s old studios on La Brea, which were easy walking distance from my apartment across the street from Samuel Goldwyn Studios on Santa Monica in Hollywood.
Turn it all into a narrative. A story. Pretend a false familiarity with people you do not know, and events you don’t know a lot about. I am trying to stick with what I know here. There is quite a good living to be made from constantly REPORTING on the famous, rather than being famous one’s self, and, as any talk show host, movie critic of stature and guy on TV with a microphone can tell y0u, celebrity rubs off, which is an entire industry running parallel to and deeply enmeshed INTO the entertainment industry.
Entertainment as opiate of the masses
Instantaneous minting of legendary status, famous names, astounding times. And, to his credit, Paul did NOT fall into that morass, although Crawdaddy did. Feature was, essentially, Entertainment Tonight or Access Hollywood, or People Magazine, light on the “people” and heavy on the entertainment industry. It was not the world Crawdaddy was born into, and it was not a world Crawdaddy was fit for. Perhaps Paul understood that.
But he still had a life to live. It is one thing to be the nexus of a pivotal moment of social change, or satori, but quite another to completely understand, accept, and move on FROM that moment. I do not know whether Paul fully did, but he moved forward.
Ironically, his love of science fiction never waned. Which brings me back to that confluence.
In 1975, Paul wrote a long profile of Philip K. Dick in Rolling Stone that changed Dick’s life, vis a vis the general public.
Now, it’s ironic that he wrote it for Rolling Stone, which was then a competitor with long-lost Crawdaddy and ultimate victor in the “which rock and roll magazine will survive into our Golden Years” sweepstakes. And it’s also, in its way, the second pivotal moment in Paul’s career.
Paul Williams’ November 1975 cover story
read it at the official Philip K. Dick estate website
I was a Rolling Stone subscriber and got that issue of the magazine. I read Paul’s cover story avidly, and then went out and bought all seven titles that the TCU bookstore had in stock. The one I most remember for its cover and title and least for its story was Clans of the Alphane Moon. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and The Game Players of Titan were also there. Loved both. All made the journey to H0llywood with me in 1976.
That’s odd. This cover looks familiar …
I slowly picked up as many of Dick’s other books as I could, including, a couple of years later the reprint of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, which featured an “ornithopter” painting from one of the original Dune paperback covers.
There’s a lot of cheap bastards out there
(In other words, it had NOTHING to do with Dick’s novel, which Paul Williams exalted as the greatest of Dick’s oeuvre in the Rolling Stone story.)
This may even be that paperback. Seriously.
I even found a copy (in a musty Hollywood bookstore for 50 cents) of the impossible-to-find first printing paperback of The Man in the High Castle, for which Philip K. Dick won the Hugo Award for best novel, and it NOT one of his best novels.
This is not an actual cover, but a parody
of the Dickian penchant for really dreadful
titles of an addle-pated poesy, like, say,
Galactic Pot Healer, or Our Friends From Frolix 8
In 1986, I sold my collection to James Avalon for a good price, hoping the collection would go to a good home and not be broken up by antiquarian greedos.
The paperback on the stands when Paul’s
Rolling Stone story came out
A decade later, Ridley Scott and Warner Brothers would option, produce and film Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? at Burbank (Warner) studios and my wife and I used to brown bag lunch on the Blade Runner set (which no one shot on during the day).
I was there the day that Philip K. Dick visited the set, but our paths in no wise coincided. Ironically, that same month, I ran into Britt Eklund in the Burbank Studios Commissary on a day we DIDN’T brown bag our lunch, and her skin texture in real life was the exact same as if you’d soaked those brown paper bags in water and then left them out in the sun to dry.
Philip K. Dick died between the time he visited the set and the time the movie came out, by which time I had a DIFFERENT wife, and was able to forgive Scott turning it into an entirely different story than Dick’s novel (which I still like much better).
And Paul Williams became his literary executor. One could easily say that Paul Williams is responsible for making Philip K. Dick a household word. What I have not mentioned here is that Dick was very isolated as a writer in a very isolated genre.
Philip K Dick, Paul Williams, mysterious child. 1970s.
A classic little gag at Westercons for many years was for the M.C. to launch into a long shaggy dog story about “he said he wasn’t going to be here, but he was able to break a couple of appointments to attend. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s have a big round of applause for Philip K. Dick!”
At which point, the late William Rotsler, who bore a vague superficial resemblance to Dick in body type and beard, would rise and soberly accept the kudos of the clueless.
Rolling Stone illustration with heavy dose of paranoia
All laugh. But that’s how he was received in the science fiction world, generally. SF saw him as paranoid, and that was considered a negative. Paul introduced him to a rock and roll audience, to which paranoia was quite the opposite of a negative, and the rest, as they say, is history. From the Paul Williams website:
The Philip K. Dick Society Newsletter
The Society was active from 1983 to 1992, during which time 30 issues of the Philip K. Dick Society Newsletter were published. I was among the young acolytes who helped stuff, stamp and label envelopes, and then sort the results as required for ‘bulk mail’ – my glimpse of Paul Williams and his preferred system for changing the world. During these unforgettable sessions Paul would keep his volunteers enthralled with stories of conversations with Dick, and with bootleg Dylan cassette tapes he’d brought along for entertainment on his drives down from Sonoma.
Eventually Paul expanded the Rolling Stone article substantially into a short, irreplaceable book about Dick, called Only Apparently Real.
— Jonathan Lethem
Paul, Alex, Cindy
Only Apparently Real (1986)
This biography of Philip K. Dick, the great science fiction writer who died of a stroke in 1982 at the age of 53, is by one of his friends also his literary executor and founder of the PKD Society, a kind of fan club. Williams skillfully interweaves memoir with transcripts of interviews and conversations to give a portrait of the artist as friend, husband, father, genius, seeker after truth, paranoid and perpetually indigent writer. Tracing Dick’s life from his Berkeley childhood through an apprenticeship under editor Anthony Boucher, his early novel sales to Donald Wollheim at Ace, his five marriages, Williams maintains that Dick engaged in an essentially religious quest the stripping away of the “only apparently real” to get to the real. The author has done a good job making this complex and unusual man understandable and sympathetic.
— Publisher’s Weekly
“Only Apparently Real successfully captures the Phil Dick I knew so long ago in California: a writer who was funny, audacious, sometimes outrageous and a little scary.”
— Ron Goulart
“Only Apparently Real is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the PKD phenomenon or simply to find out what all the fuss is about.”
— Michael Bishop
My old PKD paperback collection, more or less. Click to enlarge
At the time of his accident, he was working on doing the same for Theodore Sturgeon, about whom Paul ALSO wrote an article much like the Rolling Stone PKD article. But not so widely received. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t received AT ALL. Written in 1976 (less than a year after the Rolling Stone PKD piece) it was never published:
THEODORE STURGEON, STORYTELLER
© Copyright 1976; 1997 by Paul Williams.
This essay was written in 1976 but is published here for the first time.
I. The best short story writer in America lives on a hill on the outskirts of Los Angeles. He works on TV scripts, gives lectures, teaches a class, writes book reviews and does introductions to other people’s books. That’s all. He’s sold four new short stories in the last four years. Of the 23 books he’s written in the course of his career, only three are still in print in the United States. His old masterpieces are not being read; and his new ones are not being written.
And he has no one to blame for this state of affairs but himself.
* * *Theodore Sturgeon.
I’m 28 years old (or will be when this is published) and the man I’m writing about is more than twice my age. And when I was just half this age, 14, it occurs to me now, I was at a party on the 14th floor of the Pick-Congress Hotel in Chicago at about five in the morning, the last night of my first science fiction convention, and Judith Merril, famed anthologist and author/editor of some of my favorite books, turned to me and asked — just about everyone but me had consumed a fair quantity of alcohol by this time –“Doesn’t it bother you to see that your heroes have feet of clay?” And I said, “They couldn’t be heroes if they didn’t,” or some such clever 14-year-old remark. Then the sun came up over Lake Michigan while the drunk science fiction writers told stories and sang folk songs, and I was indeed filled with quiet awe — not at the great names made flesh around me, but at whatever miracles had brought me, at age 14, to this inner sanctum, this place of dreams.
Theodore Sturgeon was Guest of Honor at that particular science fiction convention (Labor Day Weekend, 1962), and I shook his hand but didn’t actually talk with him. He had his wife and his children with him, and was very much the center of attention wherever he went in the convention hall, and anyway I had nothing to say; I loved the man and I loved his stories and there was no way I could tell him that.
Fourteen years later I visit his home, we talk about anything and everything, I enjoy his hospitality and see his feet of clay — we’ve been friends of a sort for two or three years now — and each time I read a story of his he is again my favorite writer, a worker of miracles; but in between times he’s just a friend, attractive and annoying and as blind as the rest of us…… To write this story I need a hero, because this is a story of great achievements. But even after months of careful research, the man slips away from me, he’s too human — I know him and his life so well but I still can’t understand where his miracles come from…. [MORE]
Paul was editing the complete short stories of Theodore Sturgeon when the effects of the accident began to kick in. It had been a herculean task, to go through the complete papers (all now more or less collected at the Spencer Library, Special Collections, University of Kansas) and publish, in order, the complete short story output of Theodore Sturgeon which would eventually come to thirteen volumes. Paul’s remaining years were taken up with that task.
Eerily prescient: Paul reading during a quiet moment in the
wedding of Robin Sturgeon, Ted’s oldest son. His daughter, Noël,
who would finish the Complete stories, has chair marked, bottom.
Sturgeon’s daughter Noël completed the last volume. By that time, Paul Williams, in most essential functions, had ceased to be. From his official website biography:
In 1995, while living with his future wife, the singer Cindy Lee Berryhill, in Encinitas, California, Paul suffered a traumatic brain injury in a spill from his bicycle, and was never completely able to resume his full activities as a writer. The injury likely triggered an early onset of Alzheimer’s disease; some symptoms were immediate, while others revealed themselves in tragic slow motion: fading powers of memory, then of comprehension and speech. In 2008, unable to continue caring for Paul while also taking care of their eight-year-old son, Cindy began to arrange for Paul to live in managed care outside the home. Like so many freelancers, Paul lived without any structure of institutional support. The burden on Cindy and their 7 year-old son has been immense.
I wrote about this in 2009 (and again in 2012):
He is no longer either
Sturgeon is Neither Alive nor Well
1 DECEMBER 2009
… Hugely influential without ever becoming famous* (in the PEOPLE magazine sense of media celebrity), Paul Williams had set out to see to it that Sturgeon was appreciated as his fans — other writers — appreciated a writers’ writer. (As opposed to a “writer’s writer,” which would be a ghostwriter, with the first “writer” being understood to mean “celebrity.”)[* The ambiguity of this sentence works both ways, note.]
But now, after a lifetime of work, Paul Williams is laid low, in an irreversible state of increasing dementia with more and more infrequent moments of lucidity. (Read his wife, Cindy Lee Berryhill’s blog, Beloved Stranger, to get a feeling for what’s going on.)
He made the mistake of living in the only nation in the industrial world without any form of societal healthcare, because a bunch of selfish, greedy and/or ignorant fellow-society members believe that lassaiz faire greed and the haggling of the bazaar ought to be the engine that drives the “health care industry.”
Er, did you mean “medicine”? The healing of the sick, and easing of human suffering?
An entire generation of artists, musicians, actors and writers is now facing a cruel death for never having been as successful an artist as Paris Hilton, and Paul Williams is only a poster child. You can help him by going to www.paulwilliams.com.
In the end, there are two things that stand out about Paul Williams:
First, he was a WRITER. A freelancer. A journeyman. A quick perusal on his website of the titles published, republished or out of print should tell you pretty much what you need to know about how Paul Williams spent his life. Dylan biographer. Rock journalist and chronicler. Philip K. Dick and Theodore Sturgeon fan and critic, added to a measureless well of curiosity. Paul seems to have been, as someone of my acquaintance called it so perfectly: “a natural.”
A writer who writes. Writes because he lives, just the same way that one breathes because one is alive. I think that Paul Williams was a natural writer, someone who could not NOT write, anymore than any of us can decide to NOT breathe as a career choice.
This may explain the angry opening to the Sturgeon piece (as open most pieces on Sturgeon of that era: few writers have been as chivied, harassed and vilified as intensely for NOT writing as Ted, and few writers have had so much literary scorn tossed in their direction for what they DID write, after all).
A writer who writes cannot conceive how a writer who does not write doesn’t write. It frustrates and angers said writer.
The point being this: the writer is the marathon runner of the species. If we do our job and do it well, our thoughts will be read in decades, in centuries, in millennia.
And today, as Paul Williams has added the final period to his life’s work, that new clock begins ticking, its verdict probably not rendered within our lifetimes.
I will just tell this story, and let you draw your own conclusions.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and Paul Williams c. 1970s
Back in 1996 , when I reviewed KILLDOZER! The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Vol. III (edited by Paul Williams, with an introduction by Robert Silverberg; North Atlantic Press, 367 pp., $25.) for my column in the Santa Fe Sun (also RIP), I realized that Kurt Vonnegut modeling Kilgore Trout after Theodore Sturgeon wasn’t really nailed down in the historical record. And I e-mailed Paul, to make my case that before Kurt left us, he needed to Vonnegut to do an introduction to one of the volumes. I did this because I knew that if there was anyone in the universe who would understand why it was important and, more importantly, could get it done, it was Paul Williams.
Volume VII came out a couple years later, with an introduction by …. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Paul made it happen.
And now they are all gone: Ted. Kurt. Paul.
And we are the poorer for it.
Because what my impression of Paul was the first time that I met him has been borne out by several articles I’ve consulted pulling this together.
Let me use a rock critic metaphor:
A critic once told me that the day he started getting free (review) albums was the day that his enjoyment of music went away.
You see, Paul was, first and foremost a fan. He was enthusiastic and passionate about the things he liked, and preserved that childlike sense of wonder that is necessary in the apperception of so much of life’s beauty. He did not harden his psychic shell with a thick horny hide of rhinocerous cynicism or armadillo paranoia.
He was, to the end, willing to play the wise fool, and still love the things he loved. The fact that he was a science fiction fan and a fan of Theodore Sturgeon at fourteen and was still working with a fan’s joy on a collection of Sturgeon’s stories at the END of his life is testament to protecting his inner child against all the cynicism and disillusionment of a rough Age.
My nephew, Hart Sturgeon-Reed, negotiates the return of his
assigned chair from Paul Williams at Robin’s wedding. Hart is
much older now, and no longer packs heat at weddings.
(click photo to enlarge)
He received as many free records as anybody in the game, but he never stopped being delighted by music.
The illustration Rolling Stone picked
Kind crappy of ’em, cropping Kurt out like that
Paul Williams, Rock Criticism Pioneer, Dead at 64
‘Rolling Stone’ writer and founder of ‘Crawdaddy!’ magazine suffered brain injury in 1995
After leaving the publication in 1968, he went on to a prolific writing career, authoring over 25 books and notably penning Rolling Stone‘s 1975 feature on the now-legendary sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick. Williams’ most well-known books include 1969’s Outlaw Blues: A Book of Rock Music, 1973’s Das Energi, and his multiple works on Bob Dylan. His three-part series Bob Dylan: Performing Artist is considered a defining work on the singer-songwriter.
Williams returned to Crawdaddy! in time, running a revival of the magazine from 1993 to 2003. However, in 1995, he suffered a brain injury after a bicycle accident, which brought on early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. In 2009, Williams reached out to the music community for help, and X’s John Doe and former Dead Kennedys leader Jello Biafra led a special benefit show for him in San Francisco.
Berryhill noted in a Facebook post that Williams died with his oldest son, Kenta, by his side. There have been no announcements yet regarding a memorial service. Williams’ original run of Crawdaddy! is available online for free at Wolfgang’s Vault.
Hey, when they questionably claim credit for you, it means you done good. Paul done good.
Requiescat in Pace, Paul.
And his wife, Cindy Lee Berryhill answered eloquently the age question posed by Mr. McCartney on the second cut of side two of the old vinyl of Sgt. Pepper.
Keep her and her young son, in your thoughts.
Crawdaddy takes its name from the first club the Rolling Stones played.
A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog
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