The Evergreen Career Of Paul Williams

In an exclusive interview, GRAMMY-winning songwriter discusses his starring role in his documentary, protecting the rights of artists and his personal road to recovery
  • Photo: Jonathan Leibson/
    Paul Williams
August 27, 2012 -- 4:45 pm PDT

GRAMMY-winning songwriter. Actor. Recovering addict. Executive. One would be hard-pressed to find a career as storied as that of Paul Williams. This summer he added yet another entry in his impressive résumé by starring as the subject of his own documentary, Paul Williams Still Alive. In an exclusive interview with, Williams detailed the documentary and discussed a variety of fascinating topics, including songs such as "Rainbow Connection," his sobriety and work with the MusiCares MAP Fund, the 1983 death of Karen Carpenter, and his work as ASCAP president and chairman of the board.

"If you look at my life you'll see that I was all over the place in the '70s," said Williams. "[I had] an amazingly productive, abundant career. And then in the '80s, all of the sudden I'm gone. What happened? What happened is, [as] I describe very succinctly in the film when a fan asked, 'I got drunk.' What happened is my addiction to the attention I was getting was outrun by another addiction."

A two-time GRAMMY winner, Williams won his first GRAMMY for Song Of The Year for Barbra Streisand's "Love Theme From A Star Is Born (Evergreen)" in 1977. The song also netted Williams an Academy Award for Music (Best Original). Two years later, Williams won for Best Recording For Children for The Muppet Movie, which included the song "Rainbow Connection." Williams co-wrote songs for artists such as the Carpenters ("We've Only Just Begun"), Helen Reddy ("You And Me Against The World") and Three Dog Night ("An Old-Fashioned Love Song"). He is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Throughout the '70s, Williams was a frequent guest on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" and also appeared on shows such as "The Love Boat," "Hawaii Five-O" and "The Gong Show." Williams also segued to the big screen, acting in films such as Smokey And The Bandit, The Muppet Movie and The Doors. In 2009 Williams was elected president and chairman of the board for ASCAP, succeeding Marilyn Bergman.

Having premiered in June, Paul Williams Still Alive was written and directed by Stephen Kessler, who filmed more than two years of footage with Williams. The film also contains a variety of archival clips, offering a view of Williams' active career in film, TV and music. Now more than 20 years sober, Williams also opens up in the film about not only his fame but his past substance abuse issues and personal road to recovery. 

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