April 2 2013 05:26 PM

Pioneering music writer, 64, died last week

Paul Williams (right) with Philip K. Dick and Christopher Dick
Photo courtesy of Cindy Lee Berryhill

Pop artists, music writers and fans of rock 'n' roll have spent the past week paying tribute to Encinitas resident Paul Williams, a pioneering rock critic who died at age 64 last Wednesday after struggling for years with early-onset dementia.

In a way, every music writer today owes a debt of gratitude to Williams. As the founder of the music magazine Crawdaddy—which launched in 1966, more than a year before Rolling Stone started—he was one of the first writers to offer thoughtful analyses on artists like Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys, laying the foundation for the future of music journalism. 

Williams went on to write numerous books and spend time with the likes of Timothy Leary and Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson. He managed to pop up in some of the most memorable cultural moments of the 1960s and '70s, and modern-day cyberpunks have Williams to thank for bringing wider attention to the boundary-pushing sci-fi novelist Philip K. Dick.

As CityBeat reported in 2010, Williams' problems with dementia stemmed from a bicycle accident he had in 1995. In recent days, his wife, Cindy Lee Berryhill, has heard from countless admirers of Williams—including Wilson, who went on Facebook on Saturday to pay his condolences.

"I'm overwhelmed by the amount of, and the beauty and heartfelt sincerity in, the comments and emails I have received," Berryhill, a celebrated singer-songwriter, says in an email. "My feeling is that this energy we collectively send him in this way is like rocket fuel for his spirit as he rides now that rocket ship to heaven."

Email peterh@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on Twitter at @peterholslin.


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