Adventures in Songwriting with Paul Williams

SXSW Panel Reviews

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Photo by John Anderson

Adventures in Songwriting with Paul Williams

Austin Convention Center, Wednesday, March 14

When he wasn't on the couch next to Johnny Carson or cutting up with Chuck Barris on The Gong Show, Paul Williams was penning pop classics like "Rainy Days and Mondays" and "The Rainbow Connection," songs that taught kids the meaning of melancholy before they learned to spell it. Stephen Kessler, director of the new Williams documentary, Still Alive, was one such kid. Kessler's panel interview with Williams was a journey through the songwriting kingpin's career that alternated between entertaining anecdotes and song snippets. Williams related how his big break came when "God Only Knows" lyricist Tony Asher broke his hand skiing and recommended Williams to write a bank commercial that became "We've Only Just Begun." Now 22 years sober, Williams discussed songwriting as therapeutic self-discovery. "There's this unconscious connection to our inner struggles that kind of shows up in my songs," he revealed. While the audience getting to sing The Love Boat theme with the man who wrote it was a hoot, the interview's most poignant moment came when Williams sang "I'm Going To Go Back There Someday" from The Muppet Movie. "There was never a moment with Jim Henson where he said, 'Write for children,'" Williams said. "I don't write for men, women, or children. I write for people."

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