Family of Crawdaddy's Paul Williams needs help

Jonathan Lethem sez,

Paul Williams, the legendary creator of Crawdaddy! Magazine, fell off his bicycle in 1995 and suffered a traumatic brain injury, which has led to early onset Alzheimer's. His family's having difficulties with his care, and so a few of Paul's friend have set up a website both as a tribute to his life and work and in order to make an appeal for help.

Apart from being a true Founding Father of 'rock writing', and Philip K. Dick's literary executor, Paul should be of special interest to Boing Boing readers for his place at the crossroads where the science fiction fanzines of the '50's gave rise to an empowered and self-aware music-fan subculture -- and helped create what we now know as 'the '60's'. For anyone with a curiosity about the formation of world-changing subcultures through grassroots media, Paul was there when blogging was a twinkle in a mimeograph eye.

The difficulties Paul's wife, the singer Cindy Lee Berryhill, and his son Alexander, now face due to Paul's need for full-time care are an opportunity for crowd-sourcing at its best. This is a rotten time to be hitting anyone up for contributions for anything, but it is simply the case that if everyone who acknowledged how Paul changed their life by his music-writing and editing -- or by his efforts propagating the writings of Phil Dick back into prominence -- were to give even five or ten dollars it would transform a very unfortunate situation. (If everyone whose life had been changed by Paul's work but didn't even know his name were to contribute, they'd build his family a castle.)

Short of donating, just visit the website and glimpse some of Paul's many cultural legacies. The "Writings" section contains a lovely cascade of testimonials from people like Peter Buck, Lenny Kaye, Johan Kugelberg, Michaelangelos Matos, David Fricke, and others, some nice links to material like the original two-years run of Crawdaddy, and his legendary Rolling Stone interview with Phil Dick., as well as a guide to every book Paul ever wrote

Paul Williams (Thanks, Jonathan!)


  1. It’s amazing how many people got their start with Paul Williams. Patti Smith and Albert Bouchard (Blue Oyster Cult’s original drummer) both wrote reviews for Crawdaddy before their musical careers took off.

  2. It would be “nice” if some of the people who made significant profits from Philip K. Dick-inspired movies stepped-ip-to-the-plate and made significant donations.

    While I don’t want to “pick” on anybody, Harrison Ford made a great movie in “Blade Runner,” Mr. Ford has had a *very* successful career, and I doubt if he would even *notice* if he had $1 Million less in his bank accounts.

    How about it, Mr. Ford? I’m not trying to put you on the spot, but it would be very generous of you to help-out here.

  3. “suffered a traumatic brain injury, which has led to early onset Alzheimer’s”

    Not to derail, but I don’t get how this is possible. I’ve never heard anything even theorizing that it can be caused by trauma. Are they just saying “Alzheimer’s” as a catch-all phrase for brain dysfunction?

  4. I’m with #3 up there. Instead of these famous people writing testimonials for the guy how about they kick down some money for him instead.

  5. Paul Williams has also been editing the complete collected Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, another invaluable contribution to the sf world.

    The linked page refers to “early onset of dementia”, not to Alzheimer’s (as the quoted passage says.) “dementia” isn’t a very specific term, and can have lots of causes other than Alzheimer’s.

  6. anyone who loved music and pkd as much as me ( i own his bio, and many pkd books which he wrote the forword) deserves to have some comfort in his final days. check your paypal acct., mrs. williams. hopefully this twenty bucks will help out a little.

  7. #4 Barton Casey: “but I don’t get how this is possible”

    After the bike accident, Paul (who is one of my husband’s closest friends) had a fist-sized chunk of his brain removed. He functioned remarkably well without it for a few years, and then began to deteriorate.

    Our family have visited Paul and family a few times in the past few years. The state Paul is in requires full-time care. He’s still in there, but taking care of him be herself is a lot more than Cindy can manage at this point.

  8. Pardon me, #5, for even troubling to take offense at what is surely just a few keystrokes worth of rote, insensitive sniping on your part, but what on *earth* makes you think it’s right to assume they aren’t?

  9. I fell off my bike and bounced my head off the pavement last week (stupidly not wearing a helmet), scary to realize that such a seemingly short fall to the ground can lead to this kind of trauma.

  10. In 1993 my (future) wife was trying to track down a full set of the defunct PKD newsletter for me as a Christmas present. On a lark and with the confidence of an 18-year-old, she called Paul Williams directly at his house and asked if he was still selling sets of the newsletter. He was incredibly gracious and kind to her. They talked together as he took his cordless phone out to his garage and opened boxes looking for a set of the newsletter. They talked for almost a half-hour until he finally found one. They exchanged information and she gave me the newsletters for Christmas along with this charming story.

    He was kind to over-enthusiastic teenagers from Kentucky.

    I hope my donation helps.

  11. Well #9, I would imagine Peter Buck by himself could drop enough money himself to make this plea for money not be needed.

    Since the money is still being asked for that would indicate he didn’t.

  12. Paul’s incredible combination of energy and intelligence and good will has enriched the lives and minds of *generations* of people interested in music and science-fiction and the expansion of human consciousness.

    I bought a mimeographed copy of Crawdaddy in Harvard Square in 1966, and reading it (and subsequent issues) taught me to think differently, to extend the techniques of intellectual exploration outside the academic and apply them to my life, and to use the word “dichotomy” in a sentence. (Hey, it’s a useful word.) Paul’s critical interpretive work on Bob Dylan, which started then and continued for thirty years, is a remarkable body of essays and books all by itself, and it’s only a small part of what Paul has done in his life.

    He hasn’t raked in the big bucks, and his Wikipedia entry could certainly use an updating, as it is only the barest outline of his life:!_creator)

    His devastating accident robbed his family and it robbed us all. Please donate to help Cindy and Alexander care for him.

  13. Not to derail, but I don’t get how this is possible. I’ve never heard anything even theorizing that it can be caused by trauma. Are they just saying “Alzheimer’s” as a catch-all phrase for brain dysfunction?

    There’s essentially a system-wide “maximum damage load” that the brain can sustain. Most of us slowly pick up brain damage. People with brain injuries — even if those brain injuries have very little early effect — have made a substantial contribution to that damage load very early. Consequently, rates of dementia amongst people who have had tumors, surgery, head injuries, etc., are much, much higher than those amongst people that have not.

  14. I have spent some time on the Wikipedia entry this morning. It still needs more work.

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