In 1966 Paul Williams published his first issues of Crawdaddy! magazine, the first serious publication devoted to rock & roll news and criticism. In 1995, Williams suffered a brain injury in a bicycle accident near his California home. Today, the man who used to devour records and churn out copy requires managed care — as David Fricke reports in the current issue, Williams' accident brought on early onset Alzheimer's disease, and the pioneering writer has no insurance to cover the costs of his treatment.
To raise funds, Williams and his friends and family have launched a new Website, PaulWilliams.com, which is collecting donations and provides a striking retrospective of his life and career (he sang with John and Yoko on "Give Peace a Chance"). "He was like a friend leaning on your shoulder, saying 'You should check this out,' " R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck tells Fricke. "And he always had smart reasons."
Williams started Crawdaddy! when he was a college student in Pennsylvania, and attracted fans like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon almost instantly. He edited the magazine until 1968, and began it again as a quarterly publication in the Nineties. Williams has published Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, a three-volume study of the singer-songwriter, and The Map, a 1988 book in which he wrote about the pleasures of listening to albums like R.E.M.'s Fables of the Reconstruction. "I thought, 'Now I'm part of this thing that changed people's lives,' " Bucks says of discovering his place in Williams' work. "Paul was part of it too."
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