Why are there so many songs about rainbows? Because this guy wrote most of them.
"Just an old fashioned love song playing on the radio And wrapped around the music is the sound of someone promising they'll never go. You'll swear you've heard it before as it slowly rambles on and on No need in bringing 'em back 'Cause they've never really gone."
"Sentimental fellow sometimes overmellow Writing verses no one plans to do I know I'm no Cole Porter I'm noticeably shorter Do I deserve to have someone like you?"
— "You Know Me"
Paul Hamilton Williams, Jr. (born September 19, 1940) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and actor. He was a prominent (albeit diminutive) figure in the pop culture zeitgeist of The Seventies, having composed hits for acts such as Carpentersnote ("We've Only Just Begun", "Rainy Days and Mondays", "I Won't Last a Day Without You"), Helen Reddynote ("You and Me Against the World), The Monkeesnote ("Someday Man") and Three Dog Nightnote ("An Old Fashioned Love Song", "The Family of Man", "Out in the Country"), and appearing in popular television shows of the era, such as Hawaii Five-O, The Love Boatnote (whose theme, an infamous Lounge Lizard stand-by, he composed), and The Muppet Show. He won an Academy Award for the song "Evergreen", performed by Barbra Streisand in A Star Is Born, also a #1 hit for Streisand.Williams also composed soundtracks for cult Rock OperaPhantom of the Paradise (in which he also performed the role of villainous record producer Swan), children's gangster movie Bugsy Malone, and notorious box office flop Ishtar. Continuing his good relationship with The Muppets, he contributed several songs to the soundtrack of The Muppet Movie (most notably perennial classic "Rainbow Connection"), even making a cameo appearance as a piano player. His most recognizable film role would be Little Enos Burdette in the Smokey and the Bandit series.As a performer in his own right, Williams recorded a number of albums, among them a well-regarded '70s album series on A&M, and overlooked gem Someday Man on Reprise Records. After over a decade of heavy substance abuse, Williams released his last album for more than fifteen years in 1981; his career as a songwriter would never quite recover, certainly not his career as a performer. The man himself, however, did, and has been an advocate of recovery ever since. He remains hugely respected by his peers, having been inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2009, he was elected President and Chairman of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).Not to be confused with the boxer (though he did write a song on the subject), the gospel musician, the saxophonist, the music journalist, seven-plus footballers, or a The Young and the Restless character of the same name.
Someday Man (1969)
Just an Old Fashioned Love Song (1971)
Life Goes On (1972)
A Little Bit of Love (1974)
Here Comes Inspiration (1974)
Ordinary Fool (1975)
A Little on the Windy Side (1979)
"...And Crazy for Loving You" (1981)
Back to Love Again (1997)
I'm Going Back There Someday (2005)
Tropes associated with Paul Williams:
Age Progression Song: "We've Only Just Begun", one of the classics. Also, to more heartbreaking effect, "Time".
Album Title Drop: Never once departed from the tried-and-true "title drop in title track" method.
Back to Love Again consists almost entirely of archetypal Award Bait Song instrumentation, even including a duet re-recording of "I Won't Last a Day Without You" that could have easily played over any '90s animated film.
"Rainbow Connection" is a piece of bait that almost took, but more importantly, its presence in popular culture is still strongly felt, having become an indelible part of The Muppets as its Bootstrapped Theme.
Berserk Button: Generally a cool guy regarding the inevitable height jokes, but he almost lost it once on live talk show when a very drunk George Peppard was being blatantly disrespectful. Things calmed down, but for a while there it looked like it would come to blows.
Big Brother Mentor: Paul's younger brother — whose name is Mentor — considers his brother an inspiration as a musician.
He also shows up in minute-long appearance as a dodgy school textbook dealer in a 2014 episode of Community.
Charity Motivation Song: Was part of the "Voices That Care" super group, which released one charity single in 1991. Other members included Billy Dee Williams (no relation), The Fonz, and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Greatest Hits Album: Though it took all of twenty years for the official follow-up to 1977's Classics to be released.
In Name Only: He seems to view Someday Man as being an album of his in name only, being more in line with Roger Nichols' sunshine pop efforts and fully produced by the same, Paul viewing himself merely as a vocal interpreter for Nichols' vision.
New Sound Album: A Little on the Windy Side is a bit more carefree and upbeat, both lyrically and musically, than his series of A&M albums, featuring about one song that hearkens back to his days of melancholy love songs.
"An Old Fashioned Love Song" and "Sad Song", both with The Muppets on background vocals!
I'm Going Back There Someday features rearranged versions of several of his classic songs; notably, its version of "Rainbow Connection" is a duet with Willie Nelson who often performs the song in concert, and even named an album after the song. "We've Only Just Begun" is an example of a recursive rearrangement, as the song owes more to the Carpenters version than his stripped-down album version from before.
"Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye", in a gratuitous Puerto Rican accent, no less!
Spoonerism: Though not performed by Williams (as noted in Step Up to the Microphone), The Holy Mackerel's album contains a spoonerized reading of the story of Prinderella and "her two sisty uglers" who couldn't "shit in that fooe."
Strictly Formula: Averted somewhat for someone so closely associated with the genre of soft rock and all that usually entails; Williams wasn't afraid to mix it up a bit, at least musically. Ordinary Fool veers into Genre Roulette territory at times.
Stylistic Suck: The soundtrack for Ishtar, and to a lesser extent Phantom of the Paradise. Though as with any great parody, the "suck" is suffused with affection and respect for the mocked genres. It's telling that they can still be considered Awesome Music.
Surprisingly Gentle Song: Though the entire opposite was true of his regular studio albums (which would usually include one rocking or strikingly upbeat number among his usual fare), Phantom has "Old Souls".
"The Hell of It" from Phantom of the Paradise was written as one for the character of Beef; however, the scene for which it was composed was scrapped, and so it became the end credits song, leaving audiences confused as to whether it's sung by Swan, the Phantom (it's a long story), or an out-of-character Williams.
Top Ten Jingle: "We've Only Just Begun" was first written for an advertisement for a now-defunct bank. Williams was later called up by Richard Carpenter, inquiring whether a full-length version of the song existed; Williams said it did, then promptly hung up and wrote the rest.