Remember Paul Williams? If you were raised on a steady diet of 70’s pop, then of course you do. Between the hit songs, the awards and all that bouncing from one talk show couch to the next, you couldn’t miss him. And then there’s the films Phantom of the Paradise and Smokey and the Bandit. He owned the decade but then slowly faded out of sight, to the point some thought he was dead. (Maybe they confused him with John Denver?) Until filmmaker and lifelong fan Stephen Kessler of Vegas Vacation fame took it upon himself to set the score straight…and so the documentary Paul Williams Still Alive was born.
It recently screened at SXSW but you have to wonder if the younger set even realized they were in the presence of such a songwriting giant. Maybe the Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” or Barbra Streisand’s “Evergreen” or Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song” are before their time but at the very least, they should know that it was his “Rainbow Connection” that made Kermit The Frog that much greener. (Having just seen the latest incarnation of The Muppets, it’s every bit the magical song it was when we first heard it over 30 years ago.)
The film has gotten good reviews and it’s the unexpected interaction between filmmaker and star that sets it apart from the typical documentary. Less behind the music and more that was then and this is now, it’s been compared to A Piece of Work, the Joan Rivers documentary we talked up last year. It’s slated for theatrical release in June and hopefully it will extend beyond New York and Los Angeles so more people are reminded of his genius because as stated in the trailer below, “Paul Williams is an American treasure and should have his own night on American Idol.” Seriously. Watch and learn, kids!
The Paul Williams Connection
Today Elton John turns a fantastic 65! What better way to celebrate than with this classic performance of “Bennie and the Jets.”
Here he is on Soul Train (RIP Don Cornelius) and between the classic trademark specs and outfit, the clear piano and the robot action from the dude in the background, it doesn’t get much sweeter. Cheers to many more, Rocket Man!
Things are good for The Boss. After all these years, Bruce Springsteen still seems to be riding high even as the music business wanes. It’s nice to see he hasn’t been rendered obsolete like so many others whose careers span three plus decades. He’s managed to earn his keep with his unwavering commitment to his craft and his fans along with his rock solid work ethic…not to mention all that talent.
But some haven’t been as lucky and that seems to be the tone he’s taking with his latest, Wrecking Ball. He’s a long way from his own working class roots but he still seems to feel the pain of the man whose been left out in the cold. His heart has always been in the right place and this time he’s standing up for the many who have gotten the short end of the stick at the hand of a privileged few.
Much of his success also comes from a knack for striking the right chord at the right time so the message really resonates. But he remains relevant not only with the material but with the method as well.
As his own industry has changed, he’s reaching out to connect with his fans instead of sitting back and waiting for them to come to him. He’s been allowing fans to preview each of the new tracks by doling out one stream a day and last week he kicked off a week long celebration of his music on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon with a spirited performance. He returned on Friday to close things out and though I wasn’t sure how they could ever top last year’s spoof of Bruce brilliantly disguised as his younger bearded self, joining ‘Neil Young’ for the unlikely but irresistible “Whip My Hair,” they managed. The “I’m Sexy and I Know It” duet, this time with an 80’s Bruce getup was pretty fun but “The E Street Shuffle” jammin’ finale was truly the show stopper.
This week he’s booked as the keynote speaker at SXSW Music Festival which will also be broadcast live through NPR. Will any of it result in earth shattering record sales? It’s hard to say but based on the recent mad rush for tickets, his tour which has always been the mainstay of his operation will still be going strong. (Though I am one of the many whose attempt for tickets inexplicably failed… thanks, Ticketmaster!) If the Late Night performances are any indication, Bruce and his E Street compatriots still got it and continue to bring it every time they hit the stage…it promises to be a great show.
And while everyone is talking about the work he’s doing these days.. and it is some great work… there’s something to be said about looking back to see just how long a road it’s been. A lot has changed for all of us since The Boss first greeted us from Asbury Park and it’s been quite some time since he’s been hanging down at the beggars bash. But the video below shows the Bruce Springsteen we first fell in love with… down and dirty, raw, unaffected and perhaps never with a hungrier heart. But it’s always reassuring to know that he hasn’t forgotten where he came from to bring it all full circle.
From the leaner times of 1975, here’s “It’s Hard To Be a Saint in the City”:
Main Monkee and major teenage heartthrob Davy Jones had girls everywhere swooning when he walked onto the set of The Brady Bunch.
Oh to have been Marcia Brady. She was the envy of a generation…and it seems like only yesterday.
Here is one of our favorite Davy Jones moments. RIP Davy and thank you for making a better world!
It may be The Artist taking home all the awards but it seems Ryan Gosling is equally as deserving for his role as the strong silent type in the film Drive. What he is able to do as the dangerous loner with so few words is pretty impressive. The movie is light on dialogue but heavy on intensity and all of the performances are riveting but the music also plays a key role in driving the story forward.
The movie is dark, gritty and slightly twisted…with Albert Brooks as a bad guy…but the soundtrack is at times surprisingly catchy and does a really nice job filling in the blanks during some silent but deadly moments. Hearing the music in the context of the film probably makes for an overall better experience but for those who haven’t caught it yet, here’s a good sampling….