Apr 2 2009 3:21pm

Family of Paul Williams Needs Help

Via BoingBoing:

Jonathan Lethem sez,

Paul Williams, the legendary creator of Crawdaddy! Magazine, fell off his bicycle in 1995 and suffered a traumatic brain injury, which has led to early onset Alzheimer’s. His family’s having difficulties with his care, and so a few of Paul’s friend have set up a website both as a tribute to his life and work and in order to make an appeal for help.

Apart from being a true Founding Father of ‘rock writing’, and Philip K. Dick’s literary executor, Paul should be of special interest to Boing Boing readers for his place at the crossroads where the science fiction fanzines of the ’50’s gave rise to an empowered and self-aware music-fan subculture—and helped create what we now know as ‘the ’60’s’. For anyone with a curiosity about the formation of world-changing subcultures through grassroots media, Paul was there when blogging was a twinkle in a mimeograph eye.

The difficulties Paul’s wife, the singer Cindy Lee Berryhill, and his son Alexander, now face due to Paul’s need for full-time care are an opportunity for crowd-sourcing at its best. This is a rotten time to be hitting anyone up for contributions for anything, but it is simply the case that if everyone who acknowledged how Paul changed their life by his music-writing and editing—or by his efforts propagating the writings of Phil Dick back into prominence—were to give even five or ten dollars it would transform a very unfortunate situation. (If everyone whose life had been changed by Paul’s work but didn’t even know his name were to contribute, they’d build his family a castle.)

Short of donating, just visit the website and glimpse some of Paul’s many cultural legacies. The “Writings” section contains a lovely cascade of testimonials from people like Peter Buck, Lenny Kaye, Johan Kugelberg, Michaelangelos Matos, David Fricke, and others, some nice links to material like the original two-years run of Crawdaddy, and his legendary Rolling Stone interview with Phil Dick., as well as a guide to every book Paul ever wrote.

David G. Hartwell
1. David G. Hartwell

I want to add a personal recommendation in support of this effort to aid the Williams family. Paul is one of my oldest friends. Back in the 60s, he typed the first issue of Crawdaddy! on my typewriter on mimeograph stencils (he came up from Swarthmore for the weekend to stay at my apartment so he could avoid distractions) and when he was done, took the subway to Brooklyn to run the stencils on Ted White's mimeo. By Sunday night the first issue was collated and stapled and he was ready to mail them out mostly for free to radio stations and rock fans he knew. And that was part of how rock journalism started. I wrote for some issues of Crawdaddy! but most of Paul's essays, that later became his first book, were written in my apartment. He would come and stay a few day every couple of months, and listen to music with great concentration and then write and re-write. He is younger than me, but he met and introduced Phil Dick and Chip Delany to me. The story is a lot longer than this. I edited a lot of his books, and published some of them. But for now, let me say that Paul had been a significant influence on rock music and science fiction and perhaps even American culture. He had a bad bicycle accident and suffered brain damage, from which he mostly recovered for eight or nine years, and continued to work, and he and Cindy Lee had a son, Alexander, who is now six and ferociously brilliant, as well as happy and fun to be around. Then about five year ago Paul began a rapid decline. I can still talk to him and his personality is still in there, but he can no longer initiate conversation, or work, because of failing short-term memory. Cindy has been taking care of Paul and Alexander, at major sacrifice of her own career as a musician and singer. They are on disability, and Cindy works, but their financial needs are much greater than their income. Paul never had a job in his life, and so no social security and no pension and no savings. Please go to and donate, and spread the word. David G. Hartwell

David G. Hartwell
2. Lenny Bailes
The thing about supporting Paul is that for people of a certain mindset, supporting him is kind of like supporting yourself.

If you've ever been in love with art for art's sake: felt the urge to "follow that dream wherever that dream may lead you," he's your man -- particularly for values of the dream that include working for peaceful revolution while swirling to the tambourine in time, Boswelling prophets, reporting from the back of the Magical Mystery Tour Bus, and conducting philosophical inquiries into how to be the best possible you.

Also worth mentioning: I wouldn't mind seeing more of Cindy on stage or on CD, evoking the spirit of Brian Wilson and offering the world a stick of gum.

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