The Seventies was my era...I grew up with some great music playing. It is basically the soundtrack of my life. So it was more than exciting for me to have the opportunity to do an interview with award-winning songwriter Paul Williams, responsible for hits like Rainy Days and Mondays, We've Only Just Begun and the Oscar winning Evergreen (Theme from A Star Is Born).
This guy has done it all. We have all heard his music and it is timeless. Whether we have heard Kermit the Frog singing The Rainbow Connection or Three Dog Night emoting Just An Old Fashioned Love Song or Helen Reddy lamenting the haunting You and Me Against the World. And for you current music listeners, you have probably heard his work as he has collaborated with Scissor Sisters on their album Ta-Dah.
Williams is an Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe winning Hall of Fame songwriter. He is a recipient of The National Music Publishers President's Award and is President and Chairman of the Board of ASCAP(the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers). Recognized as one of America's most prolific and gifted lyricists and composers, Paul's standards have been recorded by such diverse musical icons as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, David Bowie, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughn, Johnny Mathis, The Carpenters, Luther Vandross, REM, Mel Torme, Anne Murray, Diana Krall, Gladys Knight and Diana Ross.
"The Rainbow Connection", from the children's classic The Muppet Movie, is one of two Paul Williams' songs that grace the American Film Institute's list of the top movie songs of all time; the second, "Evergreen," is from the award winning Streisand/Kristofferson remake of A Star Is Born. Additional song scores include the cult favorites Phantom of the Paradise and Ishtar, as well as The Muppet Christmas Carol, Bugsy Malone, and Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas, the latter of which has now been adapted for the stage. His recent work has remained wonderfully diverse, from creating and writing the songs and story for Disney's A Muppets Christmas: Letters To Santa, to writing with the Scissor Sisters, to penning the music and lyrics for Garry Marshall's theatrical sensation Happy Days.
But he's not just a songwriter, folks. His TV and film acting credits include Battle For the Planet of the Apes, Phantom of the Paradise and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. And who doesn't know the theme for The Love Boat? Like I said, we all know his talent in some medium and appreciate it.
Publicly lauded for his work as a songwriter, performer, actor and humanitarian, Paul predicts he'll be remembered for playing Little Enos in the Smokey and the Bandit trilogy and for his lyrics to "The Love Boat" theme, although it is the lyrics from Bugsy Malone, recast for a recent Coke commercial, that aptly sum up his philosophy: "You give a little love and it all comes back to you; You're gonna' be remembered for the things that you say and do". As a devoted husband to writer Mariana Williams and proud father, Paul considers his son Cole, and daughter Sarah, to be his best work.
Talking with Williams was, as he put it, "like hanging with an old friend". So, having said that....
TJ: First thing I have to admit to you, I grew up in the seventies and am a big fan of your music.
WILLIAMS: Thank you so much! It's been a good life and I'm loving it as much today as ever.
TJ: One of my favorite songs was Just An Old Fashioned Love Song.
WILLIAMS: That may have been one of the quickest songs I wrote in my life. I was taking this young lady on a date and I found out when I was leaving the studio that a song I had written had gone gold. I think it might have been Rainy Days and Mondays. SO I picked up this girl and told her I did it again with another old fashioned love song...and all of a sudden the mind goes 'DING'! I sat down and wrote a very simple song and thank God Three Dog Night got it.
They had been very good to me. My first top ten record, Out In The Country, was with them and later on they did Family of Man. Everytime they go out and cut another live album, they manage to put my three songs on them. So I am a big Three Dog Night Fan.
TJ: So am I, Paul! I have all their albums.
WILLIAMS: I wish Chuck Negron would rejoin the group. It would be magnificent to get them all back together.
TJ: Me too. Hey, hope springs eternal!
WILLIAMS: (Laughing) Did you just make that up?? Wait a minute...
TJ: Of course not. Mom used to say that to me when I was growing up...it's a family thing!
WILLIAMS: Slowly. We're all turning into our parents. It's funny...I'm a golfer and I've probably never done anything so poorly in my life that I love so much. But I kept trying until I got good or die trying. I had hit a really bad shot and the thing that came out of my mouth was one expletive after another. So, I trained myself not to be a better golfer but to be better at being disappointed. Now, when I hit a really bad shot, I yell out, "Oh, my goodness!" And it's probably the most embarrassing thing you can yell!
I heard a great story one time about Richard Attenborough. Richard was at a baseball game and he had never been to a baseball game before. He got caught up in the excitement and the screaming at the game. The batter had hit a foul ball and everyone got up then it got quiet and they sat down. And as soon as everyone got quiet, he screamed, "Run, darling, run!" (Laughing)
TJ: That's too funny!!! Funny thing is, I have a friend who would probably do the same thing at a baseball game! OK, back to the questions...you are now the President and Chairman of the Board of ASCAP.
WILLIAMS: Yes! I have been on the board for the last eight years and was Vice President for the last two years and April 26th of this year, I was elected as President and Chairman of the Board. It's an amazing opportunity and a great honor. For a songwriter to be President of ASCAP respresenting 360,000 plus writers and publishers, it's just a great honor. Especially at this time, when the genie's out of the bottle. It's all about the internet and new ways to experience music. It's really quite the time.
TJ: Did you ever in your wildest dreams imagine that you would be doing this right now?
WILLIAMS: Never in my wildest dreams! You know, I joke about that a lot. I joke about how my life is exactly as I planned it. I have an awful lot to be grateful for in this life.
TJ: Now you had done some touring with Melissa Manchester, who is another one of my inspirations, and you each sang the other's songs?
WILLIAMS: We did severAl Weeks on the road together doing a show called Songs and Stories, where we actually did sing each others songs and dueted them and each sang solo on stage and then joined together onstage. We wrote a bunch of songs together. We wrote one called Crazy Loving You that I am really proud of...you can listen to this on my MySpace page.