Paul Williams, RIP
March 29, 2013 5:01 AM   Subscribe

Paul Williams, the founder of Crawdaddy! Magazine, has died.

After suffering a severe brain injury in a 1995 bicycle accident, he had been suffering from early onset dementia, according to his wife, musician Cindy Lee Berryhill, who chronciled her struggle to care for Williams and raise their son, in her heartbreaking blog, Beloved Stranger.

Just five days ago, his life was celebrated in New York.
posted by timsteil (14 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Big ol'


posted by jonmc at 5:16 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

We had a family friend who had early-onset Alzheimer's. It's absolutely devastating to families, because it often strikes when the kids are most vulnerable (early teens). Just when they need their parents most, one parent is falling apart mentally and physically in a terrifying way, and the other is crushed under the stress of dealing with a crap medical system that cannot handle long-term care.

It's fucking awful and is the primary reason I've been purchasing long-term care insurance for the past several years. Reading his youngest son's post just about broke my heart.
posted by xthlc at 5:43 AM on March 29, 2013

Also, he was a good friend and champion of Philip K. Dick. He founded the the Philip K. Dick society and wrote a 1975 Rolling Stone article which was one of the only major articles written about Dick during his lifetime and helped solidify him as an "important" sci fi writer. It's arguable that Williams' work is partially responsible for Dick's current popularity and recognition, as Dick may have dropped off the radar without the care Williams (and others, like, more recently, Jonathan Lethem) put in to keeping him relevant. The world needs way more people like Paul Williams.

The frightening and sad narrative to me in Paul William's death is the fact that it's due to complications from a bad 1995 bicycle accident leading to early onset dementia. At the time, and after some very expensive surgery, he miraculously recovered (apparently partially because he originally had an IQ Of 180!) and was able to continue working and writing and doing what he did best. In some of these obituaries I read that before his eventual decline, he was working on a Theodore Sturgeon retrospective set of some sort, which is due to come out (or may have already?). In a weird way it seems like the last twenty years may have been borrowed time, but it seems like he made the best of it.

The thing that freaks me out the most is that yesterday morning, right after I got to work, I had a weird whim to look him up. Someone had mentioned a name that sounded like his, but wasn't, and I thought, "what's that guy up to these days?" Last I checked on him was early 2000's and he was still somewhat active. I found his wife's amazing blog (linked in the post) about living with a mentally disabled husband whose health is rapidly declining. I read the whole thing - it's a good, very emotional read. The final post was from a few days ago. I found out a few hours later (when the news broke) that he'd died the night before. I hadn't thought about Paul Williams directly in almost a decade, though his influence is probably all over my life. The Dickian pink ray serendipity that I'd spent three hours reading about his life not knowing he'd died hours before only seems to make perfect sense.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 5:46 AM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

You might want to edit your wikipedia link to point to this entry for Crawdaddy... the one you have supplied points to the Crawdaddy Club.
posted by lotusstp at 6:02 AM on March 29, 2013

Not to be confused with this Paul Williams. He's doing fine, as far as I know.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:04 AM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

One thing that Williams doesn't get credit for (or perhaps gets too much of the wrong sort of credit for*) is that he seems to have been pivotal in the transmission of zine culture from the SF zines of the 30s-50s to the music zines and other street publications of the 60s-70s to it's full development in the 80s and 90s.

Anyway, my hat is off to Mr. Williams (slightly uncomfortably, since the one time I met him, he was wearing a bicycle helmet -- which I understood was because his skull needed the extra protection during an extremely long healing -- which is awful to contemplate). Anyway, thanks.

*The RE/Search 'Zines book sort of gave him credit for creating the genre, when I think he was much more a transmission vector (as SF zines were transmitting the earlier "amateur press" movement of the first third of the century).
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:05 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by doctornemo at 6:27 AM on March 29, 2013

In Memory of Paul Williams
posted by homunculus at 12:39 PM on March 29, 2013

posted by languagehat at 12:40 PM on March 29, 2013


I was at a party in Cambridge about 12 years ago, and I didn't really know many people, so I struck up a conversation with an older (compared to the mostly college-aged attendees) guy who seemed to be in the same situation. I have to admit that I'd never heard of Paul Williams at the time, but we got to talking about writing and music, and he mentioned this magazine Crawdaddy. I didn't realize I'd met someone important until later.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:51 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sad news and yet it must have been a welcome release for him too. Dang, it is so wrong the Alzheimer's was triggered by a bicycle crash at age 47. That sucks. Glad he had a peaceful death though.

Crawdaddy! was the first U.S. magazine of rock and roll music criticism. It was a big deal way back when and was for many years. He started it when he was 17. 17!

Huh, didn't know before this minute that he sang on the recording session for John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance".

He was blessed with an amazingly loving, kind and loyal wife. My heartfelt condolences to her, their son and to his many friends.
posted by nickyskye at 5:03 PM on March 29, 2013


I'm amazed more people don't know about Crawdaddy these days.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:10 PM on March 29, 2013

His three-part series Bob Dylan: Performing Artist is considered a defining work on the singer-songwriter.

I'll need to read these.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:12 PM on March 29, 2013

Crawdaddy was a staple for me in college, along with CREEM. Each month, a new bunch of over-the-top reviews, slams and encomia from guys who later became rock crit legends and some who didn't. Informed my early musical taste like anything.

posted by the sobsister at 7:49 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

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