On 21st May 2015 Paul Williams collected the PRS for Music Special International Award.
This is the only Ivor Novello Award independently presented to an international songwriter or composer. It represents the British songwriting and composing community’s recognition of the recipient’s immense talent and the enduring influence of their catalogue. It is title sponsored by PRS for Music.
Originally commissioned to appear in the award ceremony programme, music journalist Mark Sutherland, profiles the songwriter’s career to date:
All the talents celebrated at The Ivors are unique, but there is only one recipient this year – or, in all probability, any year – who has had his songs recorded by David Bowie, Daft Punk and Kermit the Frog.
That man, of course, is Paul Williams, a songwriter who would make Mr Versatility look like a one trick pony. But his remarkable songwriting career, spanning more than five decades, several genres and millions of record sales, is not even the half of his story. Williams was a multi hyphenate multi-tasking talent long before such diversification became standard for entertainers. TV theme composer, film scorer, champion of songwriters everywhere, Little Enos Burdette in Smokey And The Bandit (he also has an accomplished TV and movie acting career) – these are all roles he has played, contributing to a CV that most people would assume had been highly embellished if it wasn’t all a matter of public record.
And his records have certainly always connected with the public. He wrote Evergreen, the love theme from A Star Is Born, for which he won a Grammy and an Oscar. He wrote breezy listening hits We’ve Only Just Begun and Rainy Days And Mondays for The Carpenters. Bowie recorded his song Fill Your Heart for his Hunky Dory album. He wrote Rainbow Connection, a hippyish anthem so intrinsic to the enduring appeal of The Muppets that it appeared in both their very first film, 1979’s The Muppet Movie, and the franchise’s modern reboot, 2011’s The Muppets. And when Daft Punk needed to humanise their robot funk on their 2013 monster hit album Random Access Memories, there was only one man they needed to interface with. Williams ended up co-writing Beyond and Touch, singing on the latter, and helping them pick up their Album Of The Year Grammy.
In recent years, he has also served the wider songwriting community as President and Chairman of ASCAP, helping composers get the money they deserve for their efforts. But, whether singing, writing, acting or defending the principle of copyright, he brings a passion and generosity of spirit to his work that means he can fit in almost anywhere. And, as that CV clearly indicates, he usually does. Some of his compositions have already lasted going on 50 years but you can bet that, when someone – be they human, robot or frog – needs a great song, he’ll continue to be the guy to call.
Mark Sutherland (c) 2015