Born on September 19, 1940, in Omaha, NE; son of Bertha Mae(Burnside) and Paul Williams, Sr.; married Katie Clinton; two children, Cole and Sarah; divorced; married Hilda Keenan Williams, April 16, 1993. Addresses: Office 8545 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90069; Tugboat Productions, Lazy Creek Productions, 4508 Noeline Ave., Encina, CA 91436-3336.
Multitalented entertainer Paul Williams is an award-winning songwriter, as well as an actorand singer. He is best known for his many popular tunes including the score of the film A Star isBorn. Williams, who also wrote "We've Only Just Begun" and other top-selling hit songs of the1970s and 1980s, has appeared in a number of motion pictures and starred on Broadway during his career. He is also known for his charming and witty personality. In the mid-1990s, Williams spent much of his time writing country music songs in Nashville.
Williams was born Paul Hamilton Williams, Jr., on September 19, 1940, in Omaha,Nebraska. He was the son of the late Bertha Mae and Paul Williams, Sr. Williams's father was anarchitectural engineer, and his mother was a homemaker. Childhood unfortunately was not a carefree time for Williams. The family relocated often, and Williams, who was small in stature, changed schools frequently as a result. That combination of circumstances set him apart from classmates and often caused him to be the butt of cruel jokes. Williams was only 13 when his father died in an auto accident. He subsequently left Nebraska and went to live with his aunt and uncle in Long Beach, California.
Williams was drawn to show business even as an adolescent. At Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, he joined the thespian club and acted in school plays. After graduation he moved for a time to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he earned a solid reputation as an actor at the local community theater. Eventually he returned to Southern California to pursue a career in motion pictures, an effort that kept him occupied during much of the 1960s. He also started hisown band, and the group released an album on the Warner Brothers label. Although he secured many small acting roles, he failed to achieve movie stardom. Equally disappointing was the success of his band, which never developed mass appeal. His early film appearances included Planet of the Apes in 1967, Watermelon Man in 1970, and an adaptation of the Phantom of theOpera called Phantom of the Paradise, for which he also wrote the score in 1974.
Williams' true talent was his ability to write touching, often romantic song lyrics. His careeras a songwriter solidified rapidly over a simple advertising jingle that he wrote for a bank commercial. The jingle, a collaborative effort between Williams and composer Roger Nichols,caught the ear of an up-and-coming singing duo called The Carpenters, comprised of RichardCarpenter and his sister, the late Karen Carpenter. The Carpenters recorded the song, called"We've Only Just Begun," and in 1970 it climbed the charts to become their second major hit. The recycled bank jingle turned solid gold for The Carpenters, and it became one of their most popular recordings ever. "We've Only Just Begun" went on to sell over 2.5 million copies in the first two years of its release. The songwriting team of Nichols and Williams continued working together and found more success. They went on to write additional hits for Richard and Karen Carpenter, along with other new songs that were popularized by such artists as Johnny Mathis, Anne Murray, Three Dog Night, Bobby Sherman, and the Monkees.
The popularity of the Williams and Nichols songwriting team opened new doors for Williams as an individual creative talent and performer. Many of the tunes penned by Williams throughout his career became memorable hits. In 1971 he made a trip to Paris where he contributed the lyrics for Michel Colombier's pop symphony, Wings. Upon his return, he collaborated with Barbra Streisand on the soundtrack of A Star Is Born which included The best-selling song "Evergreen." The song won an Academy Award for song of the year in 1976. Additionally, A Star Is Born won two Golden Globe awards for Williams: one for the movie score, and another for the movie's hit theme song, "Evergreen." Williams' songs were heard in other movies including Cinderella Liberty in 1973, The Day of the Locust in 1975, and Bugsy Malone in 1976. Williams scored the Muppets' movie in the 1970s and the Muppets' Christmas Special, "A Christmas Carol," in 1993. Williams also wrote songs for the television series The Love Boat which aired from 1977-86.
Williams, a talented musician with a witty personality, plays the piano and the guitar. His name recognition grew when Williams began making personal appearances and performing his own hit songs. He appeared frequently on the Tonight Show, made appearances on Midnight Special, and released a number of solo albums on Herb Alpert's A&M label. Williams proved himself to be a talented comedian and he resumed his acting career in a number of memorable movie appearances, including a recurring role as a harried bootlegger in a series of Smokey and the Bandit movies with Burt Reynolds in 1977, 1980, and 1983.
Time Out for Help
Around 1980, the talented and plucky songwriter began a decade-long plunge into the world of substance abuse. The descent lasted until September of 1989 when he realized the severity ofhis addiction. Williams took it upon himself to call a psychiatrist and committed himself to a month-long rehabilitation program in Los Angeles. Williams took his private drug battle seriously and vowed to control his addiction for the rest of his life. He successfully reversed the direction of his life, and later put his efforts to work as an accredited counselor to assist others like himself who battle addiction. He became intensely involved in counseling work. Undeterred by past indiscretions, he moved forward optimistically in the companionship of his wife Hilda Keenan Williams, a former agent whom he married in 1993. Williams set out to make amends for his past follies and wanted in particular to reconcile with his two children from a former marriage who were nearly grown by that time.
Once an avid race car driver, Williams greatest pleasures involve simpler pursuits. He enjoys reading mystery stories and caring for a couple of pet rabbits. He maintains a high profile in the Musicians Assistance Program. As a member of the board and counselor for the group, Williams generously donates his time by traveling and lecturing about the evils of addiction. He also maintains a position on the board of the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
On to Nashville
With a renewed spirit Williams went on to revive his career in the mid-1990s. By 1999 Williams was an established fixture in Nashville. He wrote new songs, went into contract negotiations with Atlantic records, and he established and operated a music publishing company that kept him constantly in transit between his home in Los Angeles and temporary accommodations in Tennessee. Williams' "You're Gone," was a hit song for the Diamond Rio Band. Likewise "Party On," recorded by Neil McCoy, was a hit on the country charts.
Williams is a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers and a trustee of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. During the late 1990s,Williams testified before a congressional hearing in Nashville regarding copyright legislation that would affect the music industry.
by Gloria Cooksey
Paul Williams's Career
Starred in movies throughout the 1960s; has recorded albums with A&M Records including Just an Old-fashioned Love Song, 1971; Life Goes On, 1972; and Classics, 1977; part of songwriting team with Roger Nichols; the duo wrote hits such as "Out in the Country," 1969;"We've Only Just Begun," 1970; and "Rainy Days and Mondays, "1971; scored Wings with Michel Colombier, 1971; scored A Star Is Born with Barbra Streisand, 1976.
Paul Williams's Awards
Academy Award, Song of the Year for "Evergreen," 1976; Grammy Award, Song of the Year, 1976; Grammy Award, Best Recording for Children, 1976; Golden Globe Award for "Evergreen;" Golden Globe Award for the score of A Star Is Born.
- Selected discography
- as songwriter
- "Out in the Country," 1969.
- "We've Only Just Begun," 1970.
- "Rainy Days and Mondays," 1971.
- "An Old Fashioned Love Song," 1972.
- "Evergreen," 1976.
- "The Rainbow Connection," 1979.
- Someday Man , 1970, Warner Brothers.
- Just an Old-fashioned Love Song , 1971.
- Life Goes On , 1972.
- Classics , 1977.
- Crazy for Loving You , 1981.
October 20, 2005: Williams wrote the music for the stage musical version of the television series Happy Days. The play was cowritten by Garry Marshall, creator of the television series, who will also direct. The play will premiere on February 24, 2006, at the Falcon Theater in Burbank, California. Source: Yahoo News, http://news.yahoo.com, October 20, 2005.
- Billboard, February 13, 1999, p. 65.
- People, December 21, 1998, p. 133.
- "IFCO Star Stats Paul Williams," available at http://www.ifco.org/starstats/W-Z/paul_williams_ss.shtml.