Paul Williams At The Cafe Carlyle, wednesday, April 24th, 2013 Reviewed
I was surprised and delighted to be invited to hear Paul Williams at The Café Carlyle on Wednesday evening. It was a name that had lingered in the back of my brain for years until the invitation arrived – in fact, I was surprised he was still alive. So was the documentary filmmaker Stephen Kessler for whom Paul Williams was an imaginary friend to his 13-year-old self. Kessler discovered that Williams was not only still alive but had fallen victim to the typical vices of many successful artists which explains his absence from the public stage for many years. Sober since 1990, Williams is back and performing his music – this is a man who won an Oscar for “Evergreen” written with Barbra Streisand.We all know the songs: “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “I Won’t Last A Day Without You,” “An Old Fashioned Love Song,” and “The Rainbow Connection.”
It goes without saying that Paul Williams’ show at the Café Carlyle was just great. Gone was the guy we remember on Johnny Carson and 1970s television with long blond hair and the large dark glasses which shielded him from his audience. Paul Williams today rushed out on stage and really meant it when he sang to the audience that he “wouldn’t last a day without you.” He’s grateful to be alive and it appears he’s happier than he’s ever been.
A high point of the evening was his introduction of Elaine Stritch who was in the audience on the eve of her departure from her home at The Carlyle Hotel to a new home in Michigan where family members live. There was a real and palpable mutual admiration between the two of them.
Why are there so many songs about rainbows
and what’s on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they’re wrong, wait and see.
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.
Ask anyone and they will tell you that the music of Paul Williams cuts right to the heart. I was curious as to what it was about his music that made him so much more successful than most songwriters, and so I asked him: do you write for yourself or do you write for others? Paul told me after his show that of course he has to like what he writes, but that it’s all about heart, and having heart in the writing.
When there’s no getting over that rainbow
When my smallest of dreams won’t come true
I can take all the madness the world has to give
But I won’t last a day without you
Stephen Kessler’s documentary “Paul Williams Still Alive” is a delight to watch. Sure, Paul is no longer riding the merry-go-round, but he’s happier than he’s ever been and he’s approachable and real.
Whether we realize it or not, we are all better off for having Paul Williams in the world – today, Paul is a certified rehab counselor and in 2009 was elected President of ASCAP.