The Hollywood Reporter -- Paul S. Williams, writer, author, editor, philosopher and original architect of the music magazine Crawdaddy!, died Wednesday after a long battle with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. He was 64.
The godfather of modern rock journalism, Williams’ influence on the grand world of music writing is near-incalculable. He started the first American rock magazine Crawdaddy! in 1966 (months before Rolling Stone) as a teenager while attending Swarthmore College. Williams wrote all 10 pages of the magazine’s first issue -- printed on mimeographed paper -- and soon the young rock proselytizer gave a literary start to other ambitious writers including Richard Meltzer, Jon Landau, Sandy Pearlman and Peter Knobler.
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With no role models to speak of, Williams invented the rock-journo genre as he went along during the pre-publicist age of Rock 'N' Roll. As a budding novice with newfound and almost unlimited access to the stars, he found himself in the studio with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys during their Smile sessions. Williams was also a staunch defender of the Grateful Dead and the Velvet Underground and was friendly with Timothy Leary and John Lennon. He was in attendance during Lennon and Yoko Ono’s notorious Montreal Bed-In as at the classic Plastic Ono Band recording of “Give Peace a Chance.”
Although he initially stepped away from the commercial world of magazine publishing in 1968, Williams was duly acknowledged as a world-class authority on influential rock artists like Wilson, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. At a time when most journalists were concerned with surface issues and passing fads, Williams’ music writings were often lengthy think-pieces -- thorough, thoughtful, sociological and intellectual -- and he went on to write at least 25 books, including The 20th Century’s Greatest Hits, Das Energi, Outlaw Blues, Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles and a seminal Dylan trilogy, Bob Dylan: Performing Artist (Vols. I-III).
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In the late 60s, Williams became a friend and confidant of science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick and wrote about the iconoclastic author in Rolling Stone in 1974. Williams eventually completed a biography on Dick and became his literary executor after the writer’s death. He also edited The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Vol. I-XII.
The ever-prolific Williams revived the Crawdaddy! Imprint -- self-publishing from 1993 through 2003 in typical DIY fashion -- before selling the prestigious name to Wolfgang’s Vault in 2006.
His early onset dementia was most often attributed to a head injury he sustained from a bicycle accident in 1995. Survivors include his third wife, Cindy Lee Berryhill, and their son Alexander.
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