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