‘Father of Rock Criticism’ Paul Williams Stricken with Early Onset Dementia

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An interesting story in the San Diego CityBeat profiles legendary rock critic Paul Williams, who, after a serious bike accident in 1995, suffers from dementia. His condition has degraded in recent years, to the point where he now needs round-the-clock care.

Williams founded the legendary music magazine “Crawdaddy” in 1966, when he was only 17. CityBeat writer Sarah Nardi credits Crawdaddy as “the first publication to treat rock as a serious subject (paving the way for future mags like Rolling Stone), and Williams was the first to realize that the music was less a generational byproduct than a cultural catalyst.”

More on Williams from Nardi:

“He smoked his first joint with Brian Wilson while listening to the masters of what would become SMILE; he counseled a struggling Springsteen on musical direction (just before The Boss finally broke through with Born To Run); he and pal Timothy Leary spent a night with John and Yoko during the Toronto Bed-In-For-Peace, and Williams later rejoined the couple to sing on “Give Peace a Chance.” He bitched out Jim Morrison for leaving a book Williams lent him behind on a plane; he hitched a ride to Woodstock in a limo with The Grateful Dead; and all the while, Williams was writing–refracting the pure creative energy around him through a powerful critical lens. And he did it so well that he, as an individual figure, doesn’t tend to register in our contemporary consciousness. Rock criticism (and its various offshoots) has become such an integral thread in the cultural fabric that we assume, in a way, that it’s always existed. But ask anyone familiar with its history, and they’ll tell you that the genre was born of Paul Williams.”

Williams lives with his family in the town of Encinitas, between San Diego and Los Angeles.

Image credit, via CityBeat: “A portrait of Paul Williams painted by Drew Snyder, rendered from a photo taken by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe.”