Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Paul Williams 1948–2013

Paul Williams in 1971
On March 27, we lost one of our own: Paul Williams passed away. In 1995, Paul suffered a traumatic brain injury in a bicycle accident, which is believed to have later caused his early-onset dementia. Paul's achievements are far too numerous to list here, but let me just touch upon a few: In January 1966, Paul launched Crawdaddy! the first magazine of rock music criticism, which paved the way for Rolling Stone and other such rags. In the '80s Paul founded the Philip K. Dick Society and published the society's newsletter. It was Paul's hard work that helped keep PKD's name -- and work -- alive, following the author's death in 1982. Paul also edited the 5-volume Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick and the 13-volume Complete Short Stories of Theodore Sturgeon.

Obits and tributes to Paul Williams have been posted across the 'net, including io9, the LA Times, and the New York Times.

All 19 issues of Crawdaddy! published between 1966 and 1968 are also available online for your reading pleasure in the Crawdaddy! Archives.

I briefly wrote about my involvement with the PKD Society in my "February Links & Things" post (third bullet point from the bottom) in 2010. I again mention Paul Williams in another blog post on PKD and Rudy Rucker, published on August 30, 2010: Paul had fact-checked an article I wrote on PKD in 1988 prior to its publication in the 'zine Paperback Parade.

My friend, author Eileen Gunn, shared some personal thoughts with me, and her Facebook readers, the day after Paul passed away:
Crawdaddy! was a stenciled fanzine, and I bought it for a quarter at Briggs & Briggs in Harvard Square in the spring of 1966. It made my head explode. And that was just the first time. The first issue looked like a term paper; the next looked like an SF fanzine. By the third issue, in less than six weeks, it looked like it belonged on a shelf with other magazines. Whatever the subject, Paul wrote always of exactly the moment he was in, and it was often exactly the moment that I was in. He expanded my view of my own world, of my own (counter)culture, whether it was music or philosophy or the strange internal politics of the Sixties. (Fort Hill, anyone?) I will miss him, but somehow it feels like he's still out there....

Aside from the 5-volume PKD story collection and the 13-volume Theodore Sturgeon collection, both of which hold special places (literally and figuratively) in my own personal library, I would also like to recommend Paul Williams's Bob Dylan: Performing Artist series -- assuming of course that you are a fan of Dylan's music. Unlike most books about rock music, which are typically biographical in nature, these three books focus on Dylan in concert, a critical look at the man's performances over a span of nearly 40 years: Volume 1, The Early Years 1960-1973; Volume 2, The Middle Years 1974-1986; and Volume 3, Mind Out of Time 1986 and Beyond.

My deepest sympathy to Paul's wife, Cindy Lee Berryhill, their son Alexander, and Paul's extended family and friends.

Keep on rockin', Paul....


Note: The Paul Williams photo that opens this post accompanied the New York Times article by Paul Vitello; the photo was taken by Raeanne Rubenstein, and features Paul Williams in 1971, after he had left Crawdaddy! Since I do not have the rights to reprint this photo, I have linked to the photo on the NYT website. It's one of my favorite photos of Paul: we were grunge before there was grunge. Thank you, Raeanne Rubenstein, for sharing this photograph with us.

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