Friday, February 8, 2013

Paul Williams Hasn't Died

   Paul Williams: Still Alive is a recent documentary that showed Paul Williams’ recent singing engagements in Iloilo City, Philippines.  He comfortably interacted with the people by the road side during the long bus ride to the concert venue.  The bus was stopped at a random security check along the highway.  Paul was one of the first few to get off the bus totally relaxed while the rest were apprehensive, unaccustomed to military checkpoint. 

   After the concert the audience stayed in the lobby to be with Paul.  The music CD’s were all sold out to those who wanted his autograph and everybody wanted to have a photo with the star.  Steven Kessler, the producer and director commented that the Filipinos treated Paul Williams like he’s Justin Bieber. 

   The documentary is a testament to Filipino loyalty.  Paul Williams could not thank his audience enough not only for the large turn-out but also for the loving welcome he received.  He was a family member who came home after a long journey.  That Filipino audience hardly noticed the number of decades that passed after his last Billboard hit.  To them Paul’s voice sounded as good at middle age as it was the first time they heard it. 

     According to Paul’s net worth is about $14M.  The man needs no additional earning.  With the long list of accomplishments he has nothing more to prove to the entertainment industry.  And yet the documentary showed he braved the travel warning from the US Department of State to perform in Iloilo, a small city south of the Philippines.  He took an ordinary bus that the promoter provided, a long drop from the luxury vehicles he is used to.  He encouraged Steven Kessler to take some shots of the scenic province, seemingly proud of his remote fan base.  He deserves all the love and loyalty shown by his Filipino audience. 

   Paul Williams is best remembered as the composer of unforgettable songs about love and loneliness that touched the heart of everyone in the 70’s such as Waking Up Alone, Loneliness, With One More Look at You, That’s Enough For me and Nice to be Around.  He took home a Grammy for We’ve Only Just Begun, Evergreen and The Muppet Movie –the album.  Thirty years later, We’ve Only Just Begun is still used as a wedding song in the Philippines. 

   In the song Nice To Be Around one can imagine a budding love affair as it says “Hello such a simple way to start a love affair; should I jump right in and say how much I care…” which might be illicit in nature as the same song down the line says “To a little girl whose broken every rule…”  In Waking Up Alone we see a man trying to reclaim a lost love but sadly realizes “I could get back to the place but not the time.”  In Loneliness the song writer accurately describes the lot of the single as he says “Loneliness fills the wishing wells and fills the bars.”  In the song With One More Look At You we see someone who has found a lover to heal a broken heart as it says “I might overcome the anger that I’ve come to know…”  He spoke for the runaways in What Would They Say with “Leave us alone…happy in a one room shack and we’d not look back.”  And true enough, happy or not, many of those runaways or ‘stow away’ as we call them in the Philippines are waking up in a one room shack in the country or in a Metro Manila squatters’ area.  Paul Williams’ songs are relevant as the day they were written some three decades ago. 

   You and Me Against The World was the love song of many political activist couples who fought against Martial Law.  The lyrics of the song prophetically predicted the future of those relationships when it said:

“And when one of us is gone,
And one is left alone to carry on,
Then remembering will have to do,
Our memories alone will get us through”

   The political struggle created widows and orphans.  Some surviving couples have parted ways by the time the twenty years Martial Law was lifted.  Maintaining a relationship in a third world economy was tough enough without the added trouble of continuously moving to evade arrest. Contraception was unpopular with the teens so unwanted pregnancy further complicated their situation.  Those who were able to move on did so half-hearted, with a bigger half often looking back to a romantic period of Philippine history when lovers called each other comrades.  Paul Williams could not have guessed that song would have a lifelong significance to the heroic student activists of that era, some of whom are probably still singing the song to put their grandchildren to sleep with their lost love in mind.
You and Me Against the World

1 comment:

  1. Paul Williams, such a considerate man, did not ignore this humble blog. He emailed this writer:

    Sent: Monday, February 18, 2013 6:17 PM
    Subject: Paul Williams here ..

    Gloria ..

    I was touched and delighted by your writing. Thanks for the kind message and the very accurate description of my love for the Filipino people .. The most open hearts in the world!

    Blessings and thanks .. Paul
    Sent from my iPad