Sunday, March 31, 2013

writer / rock critic Paul Williams RIP

"The Father of Rock Criticism" Paul Williams.
Paul Williams had the distinction of being the first man in nearly anyone's recollection to discuss rock music as a substantive art form. He was,I suspect, similar to what Manny Farber was to film criticism,  a writer who insisted that rock music was a fully developed form, with its own aesthetic , qualities and stylistic tangents that expressed ideas, musical and emotional, in a manner wholly unique and deserving of its own critical language.

Rock and roll was no poor step child of the other arts. Developing their ideas decades apart , what Williams and Farber shared was a dissatisfaction with the way their respective areas on critical concern, rock and roll and film, were being treated, as subdivisions of other, more established art forms. Both decided to something about their respective gripes. Both men changed the way millions have come to see the world, at least in some small way. 

Paul Williams brought to the world was a set of propositions that started an international conversation on the nature of popular culture and the defense of an art that didn't originate in the university, the cathedral or a think tank. Paul's inspired enthusiasm for musicians and their message, his flashing insights, his visionary notion that art is the means with which we can  transcend the brutally inane and experience genuine joy, was a subject too enticing to pass up. He was an  influence on my writing and the writing of many long time friends, and I find it astounding that the discourse he started in the 60s continues today, a  contentious, cranky, frequently brilliant, opionated  conversation on the issue of what we find beautiful and why.  On the subject of rock and roll and popular music, Paul Williams created a critical method where none had previously existed. That is a profound achievement , and it is one that influenced my life. Thank you, Paul Williams.