The Kindness of Paul Williams
“Who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
And look what it’s done so far”
~from Rainbow Connection by Paul Williams
Let me tell you a story.
During the 1970’s, at the height of his career (and the beginning of mine), I landed an interview with one of the hottest songwriters of the time: Paul Williams.
Due to his schedule, we were pre-recording the interview to air at a later date on my KMPC Radio show in Los Angeles.
Paul was extremely gracious with his candor, humor and time. The hour flew by, as he taught and I listened. We wrapped up our visit and I couldn’t wait to share Paul’s thoughtful gems with my audience.
Then something went very wrong.
The engineer across the glass, who was on duty at the time, chimed in on the intercom,
“Do you want me to start recording?”
It took a few seconds, but I quickly realized what had just happened. This particular engineer, who will remain nameless, was, well, a real curmudgeon. It was no secret that he was not a fan of the new music changes to the station’s format.
In essence, my very special interview with Mr. Williams had been sabotaged.
I turned to my guest and said something like, “I am so sorry…”
Before I could finish apologizing, Paul asked,
“Who is this guy?” (Referring to the engineer.)
I tried to explain his behavior and from the look of disbelief on Paul’s face, I could tell that he understood the situation completely.
Then, Paul Williams made one of the kindest gestures I’ve ever received from an artist.
He simply said, “Tell him to start recording!”
For yet another hour, we “recreated” the interview with Paul answering spontaneously, as if I were asking my questions for the first time. In fact, our exchange was even better, as we had fortuitously bonded over the incident and our extended visit.
I’ve never forgotten his kindness and the gift of his precious time that afternoon way back when.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to reunite with this special human being and thanked him as I recalled his “deliberate” act of kindness.
“You mean, I did something right for a change?!”
This comes from a man who will proudly tell you that he has been sober for more than two decades after losing a decade to drugs and alcohol.
In his inimitable style, he recently told Oprah,
“I did 49 Tonight Shows. I remember 6.”
That was then, this is now.
Perhaps the foundation for Paul William’s life of kindness, regardless of his circumstances, can be found his new book, written with long-time friend, Tracey Jackson, “Gratitude and Trust: Six Affirmations That Will Change Your Life”.
Those affirmations are,
1. Something needs to change, and it’s probably me.
2. I don’t know how to do this but something inside me does.
3. I will learn from my mistakes and not defend them.
4. I will make right the wrongs I’ve done whenever possible.
5. I will examine my behavior on a daily basis.
6. I will live in love and service, gratitude and trust.
Of these six self-encouragements, it is the last that says who Paul Williams is and was, all along.
A walking rainbow of kindness.