Jonathan Lethem on The Godfather of Rock Critics: Paul Williams |

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Jonathan Lethem on The Godfather of Rock Critics: Paul Williams



Novelist (and unrepentant Music Mix fan) Jonathan Lethem (author of Motherless Brooklyn, Fortress of Solitude, and the forthcoming Chronic City) writes to tell us about a new website dedicated to the work of pioneering rock critic Paul Williams. We’ll let Mr. Lethem explain:

“My dear friend and mentor Paul Williams, the creator (at age 17) ofCrawdaddy! magazine, is one of the true Founding Fathers of musicjournalism. He’s also a kind of ’60s and ’70s countercultural Zelig– beginning with a phone call to his dorm room from Bob Dylan, and continuing with hisparticipation in a Doors’ recording session, his introduction topot-smoking (courtesy of Brian Wilson–in a tent in Wilson’sliving room!), and his presence at John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-InFor Peace in Toronto (he was there as Timothy Leary’s campaign manager); he also squeezed in work asPhilip K. Dick’s literary executor, and wrote a hippie bible called Das Energi. In the ’80s and ’90s, Williams renewed his work asa music writer, adding volumes on Wilson, Neil Young, no less than fourbooks on Dylan, and one of the finest ‘rock-list’ books, Rock &Roll: The Hundred Best Singles.

In 1995 Paul suffered a serious brain injury in a bicycle accident, andhis condition’s gotten steadily worse. His wife, the terrific singer-songwriter Cindy Lee Berryhill, has largely given up her ownwork due to Paul’s need for full-time care. Now some of Paul’s friends,including myself, have pulled together a website and support fund. The”Writings” section features a cascade of testimonials from people likePeter Buck and Lenny Kaye; some nice links to material like the originaltwo-years run of Crawdaddy and his legendary Rolling Stone interviewwith Philip K. Dick; and a guide to every book Paul ever wrote.Even if you can’t donate, drop in and sample Paul’s incredible legacy.”

Among the treasures you’ll find linked on the site, and scattered around the internet? Click on the first issue of Crawdaddy here, and see the first page that innocuously started it all, with the words, “Youare looking at the first issue of a magazine of rock and rollcriticism…” There’s also this 1966 piece on Bob Dylan, which Williams described as his breakthrough, a 1975 profile of Leonard Cohen, and for science fiction fans, the Philip K. Dick story cited above. Take a look around, as you continue to marvel to yourself: this guy was the first.

More on Jonathan Lethem:
A chat with Jonathan Lethem
Review of Omega the Unknown
Review of You Don’t Love Me Yet

More from EW’s Music Mix:
Bob Dylan’s free single: Snap Judgment
What’s the most heartbreaking song of all time?
‘Neil Young Archives’: They’re really coming this summer