The grandaddy of roccrits and Crawdaddy magazine founder pioneered the notion of music-review-as-artistry.
By Fred Mills
Paul Williams has died, and with his passing we’ve lost an irreplaceable voice in the field of music journalism. In poor health since a serious bicycle accident in 1995, the legendary rock critic passed away Wednesday, March 27, at the age of 64, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Musician Cindy Lee Berryhill, Williams’ wife, posted to Facebook, “It was a gentle and peaceful passing.” The Times notes that according to Williams’ website, he had “suffered a traumatic brain injury in a bicycle accident, leading to early onset of dementia, and a steady decline to the point where he now requires full-time care. The burden on his immediate family has been immense.”
Williams of course founded the fledgling rock fanzine Crawdaddy in early 1966 while he was a student at PA’s Swarthmore College. The ‘zine’s influence would be immense, not only spawning a cottage industry of independent critical voices that included the likes of Richard Meltzer and Jon Landau not beholden to the dictates of the entertainment industry and big media, but also charting a path to the maverick blogs of today that we no doubt take for granted.
Adds the Times, “In 1968, Williams left the magazine he’d started and went on to write more than two dozen books, then resuscitated Crawdaddy for a latter-day run from 1993 to 2003. Wolfgang’s Vault bought it in 2006, and continued to publish it as a daily webzine, and in 2011, Paste took over the Crawdaddy name and began reviving ‘stories from the Crawdaddy archives and publish[ing] new content on legacy artists.’”
Yours truly was certainly influenced by Crawdaddy and Williams’ vision of a forum that could treat rock ‘n’ roll as art and not as mere commerce, and of a means of personal expression for fellow music enthusiasts well beyond simply reporting on the performers. Crawdaddy, along with Fusion, Bomp!, Creem, Trouser Press and even early Rolling Stone, showed me how to be myself and to share my thoughts and opinions in public, and by the late ‘70s I had joined the fanzine fraternity myself, publishing a punk/new wave rag called Biohazard Informae. Thanks to correspondence with folks like Williams and Bomp!’s Greg Shaw, I was encouraged to find my voice.
Thank you, Paul, for all the words over the years. You will be greatly missed.