Paul Williams (songwriter)

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Paul Williams
Paul Williams, ASCAP concert, 2011.jpg
Williams at the 2011 ASCAP concert[1]
Background information
Birth namePaul Hamilton Williams, Jr.
Born(1940-09-19) September 19, 1940 (age 73)
Omaha, Nebraska
United States
OriginOmaha, Nebraska
GenresFolk, pop, soft rock
OccupationsMusician, songwriter, actor, writer, director
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, keyboards
Years active1960s–present
LabelsA&M Records
Associated actsThe Holy Mackerel, The Muppets, The Carpenters, Daft Punk
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Paul Williams
Paul Williams, ASCAP concert, 2011.jpg
Williams at the 2011 ASCAP concert[1]
Background information
Birth namePaul Hamilton Williams, Jr.
Born(1940-09-19) September 19, 1940 (age 73)
Omaha, Nebraska
United States
OriginOmaha, Nebraska
GenresFolk, pop, soft rock
OccupationsMusician, songwriter, actor, writer, director
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, keyboards
Years active1960s–present
LabelsA&M Records
Associated actsThe Holy Mackerel, The Muppets, The Carpenters, Daft Punk

Paul Hamilton Williams, Jr.[2] (born September 19, 1940[3][4][5]) is an American composer, singer-songwriter, director, and actor. He is perhaps best known for popular songs performed by a number of acts in the 1970s including Three Dog Night's "An Old Fashioned Love Song", Helen Reddy's "You and Me Against the World", David Bowie's "Fill Your Heart", and the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" and "Rainy Days and Mondays", as well as his contributions to films, such as writing the lyrics to "Evergreen", the love theme from A Star Is Born, starring Barbra Streisand, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Song; and "Rainbow Connection" from The Muppet Movie. He also composed the enormously popular opening theme for "The Love Boat" television series, originally performed by Jack Jones, and later, by Dionne Warwick.

He has also had a variety of high-profile acting roles such as Little Enos Burdette in the highly successful 1977 action-comedy Smokey and the Bandit, and as the villainous Swan in Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise (which Williams also co-scored, receiving an Oscar nomination in the process), as well as television, theater, and voice-over work for animation.

Musical career[edit]

Williams performing in 1974.

Williams was part of a short-lived rock group called The Holy Mackerel. He and his collaborator, Roger Nichols, were responsible for a number of enduring and very successful pop hits from the 1970s, including several hits for Three Dog Night (the aforementioned "An Old Fashioned Love Song", as well as "The Family of Man", and "Out in the Country"), Helen Reddy ("You and Me Against the World"), and the Carpenters, most notably "Rainy Days and Mondays", "I Won't Last a Day Without You", and "We've Only Just Begun", originally a song for a Crocker National Bank television commercial featuring newlyweds, and which has since become a cover-band standard and de rigueur for weddings throughout North America. An early collaboration with Roger Nichols, "Someday Man," was covered by The Monkees (a group for which he auditioned but was not cast)[6] on a 1969 single, and was the first Monkees' release not published by Screen Gems. He also auditioned for, but was not selected to be a Mouseketeer. Bobby Sherman also sang "Cried Like a Baby." Anne Murray sang "Talk It Over in the Morning". He also wrote the cantata Wings with music by Michel Colombier.

A frequent cowriter of Williams was musician Kenneth Ascher; their songs together included the popular children's favorite "Rainbow Connection," sung by Jim Henson (as Kermit the Frog) in The Muppet Movie. Williams also collaborated with Biff Rose, notably on the song "Fill Your Heart," originally recorded by Tiny Tim as the B-side of his 1968 hit "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" and subsequently covered by David Bowie on his album Hunky Dory. Most recently, he collaborated with Scissor Sisters on their second album, Ta-Dah and contributed lyrics to Richard Barone's 2010 album Glow.[7] He also wrote for Mort Sahl in the 1960s.[citation needed]

Williams has worked on the music of a number of films, including writing and singing on Phantom of the Paradise (in which he also starred and earned an Oscar nomination for the music); and Bugsy Malone. He contributed lyrics to the Cinderella Liberty song You're So Nice to Be Around with music by John Williams, and it earned them an Oscar nomination. Along with Kenneth Ascher and Rupert Holmes, he wrote the music and lyrics to A Star Is Born, with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. The love ballad, "Evergreen," (lyrics by Paul Williams, melody by Barbra Streisand) from the movie "A Star Is Born" won the Academy Award for Best Song of The Year.

He is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame,[8] and his songs have been performed by both pop and country music artists. He has been nominated many times for an Academy Award, but as previously stated above, has only won it once, for "Best Song" with Barbra Streisand, also performed by Streisand, for ("Evergreen") from the 1976 film A Star Is Born.[9]

He wrote the music for a musical production of Happy Days that debuted in 2007 and also made a cameo appearance as an animated version of himself singing "Breathe in the Sunshine" in the hit animated TV series Dexter's Laboratory.[10]

He wrote and sang "What Would They Say," the theme song from the made-for-television film The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, a 1976 film starring newcomer John Travolta alongside Diana Hyland.

In April 2009, Williams was elected President and Chairman of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.[11]

In March 2012 it was announced that Williams had "written a couple of tunes" on Random Access Memories, the album of French electronic duo Daft Punk.[12] Williams co-wrote and sang vocals on "Touch" and co-wrote "Beyond".

Film and television career[edit]

Although predominantly known for his music, Paul Williams is also an actor, appearing in films and many television guest appearances, notably as the Faustian record producer Swan in Brian DePalma's cult film Phantom of the Paradise - a rock and roll adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, Faust and The Picture of Dorian Gray for which Williams also wrote the songs - and as Virgil, the genius orangutan in Battle for the Planet of the Apes (on Feb. 9, 1973, Williams mixed his two fields for a joke appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in which he sang a song in full make-up as Virgil). His most recognizable role is "Little Enos Burdette" in Smokey and the Bandit. He also played Miguelito Loveless Jr. in The Wild Wild West Revisited, a reunion movie of the original Wild Wild West, and played himself, singing a song to Felix Unger's daughter Edna, in "The Odd Couple." He made his film debut as Gunther Fry in the 1965 satire The Loved One.

After appearing on The Muppet Show in 1976, Williams worked closely with Jim Henson's Henson Productions on The Muppet Movie, most specifically on the soundtrack, and even had a cameo in the movie as the piano player in the nightclub (Who had a sign on the piano saying Don't shoot piano player) where Kermit the Frog meets Fozzie Bear. He was also the lyricist for Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas.

Williams was hired by TV producers Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas to write title tracks for two of their ABC comedies, It Takes Two (1982–83), on which he also co-sang with Crystal Gayle, and Condo (1983), in which Williams' theme was sung by Drake Frye.

Williams has appeared in many minor roles. He provided the voice of The Penguin in Batman: The Animated Series. He had a role in Star Trek: Voyager as Prelate Koru of the Qomar Planetary Alliance, a race technologically superior to the Federation but lacking musical ability, and also appeared on an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger as a radio DJ covering a modern day Bonnie and Clyde pursued by Walker. He appeared in 2009 in an episode of Nickelodeon's children's show Yo Gabba Gabba! entitled "Weather", where he performed "Rainbow Connection". He has also appeared on Cartoon Network's Dexter's Laboratory where he played Professor Williams in an episode entitled "Just An Old Fashioned Lab Song".

He made numerous television appearances in the 1970s and 1980s, including guest appearances on Hawaii Five-O, Match Game '79, Hollywood Squares, The Love Boat, The Hardy Boys, The Odd Couple (as himself), The Muppet Show (as a guest star), The Fall Guy, and The Gong Show. He has also guest-starred in the Babylon 5 episode "Acts of Sacrifice" (Season 2 Episode 12) as Taq, the aide to Correlilmurzon, an alien ambassador whose species finalizes treaties and agreements by having sex with the other signees. In a bit of subtle irony, Williams also appeared in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Virtuoso" as the leader of a planet that has never heard music before. Williams appeared on an episode of Picket Fences as the brother of the just deceased Ginny Weedon (Zelda Rubinstein). While eulogising Ginny, he sings a small part of "Rainbow Connection". He starred as Ferdinand the Bull in a musical 1/2-hour TV production of the same name written by the Sherman Brothers. In October 1980, he was host of the Mickey Mouse Club 25th Anniversary Special on NBC-TV. He stated that he tried out for the show in early 1955 and was turned down. Paul was a frequent guest and performer on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Williams also appears as the man making the phone call at the beginning of the music video for Hank Williams Jr.'s song "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight."

Personal life[edit]

Williams was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Bertha Mae (née Burnside), a homemaker, and Paul Hamilton Williams, an architectural engineer.[2] His father died in a car accident in 1953 when Williams was 13 years old, after which Williams grew up living with his aunt.

He is married to writer Mariana Williams, and has two children, Sarah and Cole. His brothers are John J Williams (a NASA rocket scientist), participant in the Mercury and Apollo programs and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, and Mentor Williams (a songwriter as well who penned Dobie Gray's 1973 hit "Drift Away").

In 2009, Paul Williams was elected President of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

In September 2011, director Stephen Kessler's documentary Paul Williams Still Alive premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Williams identifies himself as a recovering alcoholic, and he has been active in the field of recovery from addictions. Sober twenty-three years, his humorous observations of life, love, and creativity, augmented by certification UCLA as a Certified Drug Rehabilitation Counselor, will be shared in an upcoming book, Gratitude and Trust: Recovery is Not Just for Addicts co-written with Tracey Jackson.



Notable songs[edit]

  • "Nice to Be Around" (Cinderella Liberty Soundtrack)
  • "Evergreen" (Love Theme from A Star Is Born), (#1 hit for Barbra Streisand)
  • "Rainy Days and Mondays", (#2 hit for The Carpenters)
  • "We've Only Just Begun" (#2 hit for The Carpenters)
  • "You and Me Against the World" (Top-10 hit for Helen Reddy)
  • "An Old Fashioned Love Song" (Top-10 hit for Three Dog Night)
  • "Family of Man" (#12 hit for Three Dog Night)
  • "Out in the Country" (#15 hit for Three Dog Night)
  • "I Won't Last a Day Without You", (Top-20 hit for The Carpenters)
  • "The Rainbow Connection" (Golden Globe and Oscar-nominated song)
  • "When the River Meets the Sea" (from Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas)
  • "One More Angel"
  • "Moonlight Becomes You"
  • "You're Gone"
  • "Waking Up Alone" (Biggest single as performer)
  • "Flying Dreams" (from The Secret of NIMH soundtrack)
  • "Gone Forever"
  • "Where Do I Go From Here (Thunderbolt and Lightfoot)"
  • "Talk it Over in the Morning" (Anne Murray)"
  • "Someday Man" (Monkees - 1969 - "A" Side of "Listen to the Band" single)
  • "Still Alive"
  • "Touch" (Daft Punk - 2013 - Random Access Memories)

TV themes (lyricist)[edit]

Notable recordings[edit]

  • "An Old Fashioned Love Song" (from Just an Old Fashioned Love Song [1971])
  • "Bitter Honey" (from The Holy Mackerel [1969])
  • "Don't Call It Love" (from Ordinary Fool [1975])
  • "Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born) ([1977])
  • "The Family of Man" (from A Little Bit of Love [1974])
  • "Faust" (from Phantom of the Paradise [1974])
  • "Flash" (from Ordinary Fool [1975])
  • "For Goodness Sake" (from A Little on the Windy Side [1979])
  • "Flying Dreams" (from The Secret of N.I.M.H. [1982])
  • "The Hell of It" (from Phantom of the Paradise [1974])
  • "Here's Another Fine Mess" (from A Little on the Windy Side [1979])
  • "If We Could Still Be Friends" (from Here Comes Inspiration [1974])
  • "I Won't Last a Day Without You" (from Life Goes On [1972])
  • "Let Me Be the One" (from An Old Fashioned Love Song [1971])
  • "A Little Bit of Love" (from A Little Bit of Love [1974])
  • "Loneliness" (from A Little Bit of Love [1974])
  • "Ordinary Fool" (from Ordinary Fool [1975])
  • "Out in the Country" (from Life Goes On [1972])
  • "Rainy Days and Mondays" (from Here Comes Inspiration [1974])
  • "Sad Song (That Used to Be Our Song)" (from A Little Bit of Love [1974])
  • "Save Me a Dream" (from A Little on the Windy Side [1979])*
  • "Someday Man" (from Someday Man [1970])
  • "To Put Up with You" (from Someday Man [1970])
  • "Trust" (from Someday Man [1970])
  • "Waking Up Alone" (from Classics [1977])
  • "We've Only Just Begun" (from An Old Fashioned Love Song [1971])
  • "When I Was All Alone" (from An Old Fashioned Love Song [1971])
  • "You and Me Against the World" (from Here Comes Inspiration [1974])




  • Bugsy Malone [1997]
  • Happy Days [2007]
  • Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas [2008]

Cinema songs[edit]




  • Under the Sycamore Tree
  • Tru on Broadway, 1989



  1. ^ Padua, Pat (May 12, 2011). "Pic(s) of the Week: They Write the Songs Edition". Library of Congress - In the Muse: Performing Arts Blog. Retrieved December 4, 20132. 
  2. ^ a b "Paul Williams Biography (1940-)". Retrieved 2012-04-10. 
  3. ^ "Paul Williams's biography at Film Reference". Retrieved 2013-03-21. 
  4. ^ Ankeny, Jason (September 19, 1940). "Paul Williams's biography at allmusic". Retrieved 2013-03-21. 
  5. ^ Paul Williams's "mini biography" at IMDb
  6. ^ Lurie, Karen (2002). fdfdfdfdfdfd "The Monkees". St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture. 
  7. ^ "Richard Barone - Bar/None Records". Retrieved 2012-04-10. 
  8. ^ "Songwriters Hall of Fame Bio". Retrieved February 8, 2008. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Academy Awards Database". Retrieved February 8, 2008. , two Grammy Awards[citation needed] and several Golden Globe Awards "Golden Globes Database". Retrieved February 8, 2008. 
  10. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-03-21. 
  11. ^ "Songwriter Paul Williams Elected President and Chairman Of ASCAP". Retrieved August 27, 2010. 
  12. ^ "'The Muppets' songwriter to feature on new Daft Punk album? | News". Nme.Com. March 19, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-10. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Danny DeVito
Actors to portray the Penguin
Succeeded by
David Ogden Stiers (voice only)