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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Paul Williams, 'Crawdaddy!' Founder, Dies

UPDATE   NYT tonight with full obit on Paul, including quotes from my friend Peter Knobler, who was editor at Crawdaddy for nearly all of the 1970s while I served as #2.

Earlier: After years of suffering from dementia, Paul Williams, who founded "the first magazine to take rock 'n roll seriously," Crawdaddy!, has died at the age of 64, his wife Cindy Lee Berryhill reports here.   As some know, I was senior editor at Crawdaddy! for nearly all of the 1970s.  Paul had founded the magazine in 1967, a year before Jann Wenner had the bright idea for Rolling Stone, while still a student at Swarthmore.   He wrote the earliest "modern" rock essays and reviews--perhaps the most famous on Brian Wilson and his aborted Smile project--and gave a start to many of the legendary names of the genre from the late-1960s.   Hence he was often called "The Father of Rock Criticism."

Not exactly a businessman, he sold the magazine within a few years, but we hired him to write a monthly column and some features (I especially recall a cover story on the Stones and a fantastic interview with my man Leonard Cohen) around 1973, and he often visited our office at 13th Street and Fifth Avenue in the Village.   Ray Mungo was his good friend then and Paul also wrote quite a bit for us on various ecology and travel adventures.  I edited Paul's pieces along with the monthly columns of his friend David G. Hartwell, Paul Krassner and Williams Burroughs.

Paul was a gentle, soft-spoken, not without ego, guy.  Our version of Crawdaddy! folded in 1979, and Paul later re-claimed the name and published it as a "zine."  Among many other projects, he started documenting every concert Dylan ever performed. He sold it again in 2003 and it lasted until 2011 as an online magazine.  He was, among other interesting things, executor of Philip K. Dick's estate.  He also sang on John and Yoko's "Give Peace a Chance. " A bicycle accident in the 1990s may had led to early onset dementia.  Many musicians played benefits to raise money for his care in recent years. 

His early essay on Procol Harum's first album from 1967 might not be his greatest piece but  at least it gives you an idea of why this form of writing--about, of all things,  rock 'n roll--was so new.  I also recall a piece on Neil Young that "blew my mind." Here's young Neil Young and rare Brian doing "Surf's Up" from original Smile.

1 comment:

ed waldo said...

For a couple of years in the mid- 1970s, your version of Crawdaddy was the best magazine in America, Mr. Mitchell.