Much of the Grammys audience were scratching their heads Sunday night over the elfin figure who stepped forward to accept the Album of the Year Grammy for Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories." But diminutive Paul Wiliiams is one of the giant figures in the music industry of the past half century and although his name may now be unknown to many of today's music fans, his work is very familiar.
It was a surreal moment when the Parisian popbots accepted their prize, as the duo's Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, in matching "Star Wars" Stormtrooper helmets, were joined onstage by presenter Yoko Ono, a Smokey-the-Bear-hatted Pharrell Williams, and Chic's Nile Rodgers. ("Wow! This is the most insane thing ever," exclaimed Nile, correctly.)
But it was collaborator Paul Williams, serving as a spokesman for the silent cyborgs, who won the Grammys, and the Internet, with the best speech of the night.
"You know, I used to imagine things that weren't there and were frightening, and then I got sober and two robots called me and asked me to make an album," Paul chuckled. "We are 'Random Access Memories' — some of us more random than others!"
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Unfamilar though he may be today, Paul Williams is a bona fide legend. Below are five facts you need to know about the man, the myth, the robot translator.
1. He wrote "The Rainbow Connection."
Paul obviously does some of his best work with non-humans. Before he was collaborating with robots, Paul was making music for Muppets, and before he was working with Frenchies, he created a song for a very famous frog. Kermit's Paul-penned, Oscar-nominated theme from "The Muppet Movie" is still an anthem for the lovers, the dreamers, and you, 35 years after its debut.
2. He starred in the best worst movie ever.
In 1974, Paul had a plum role in a flick so campy and surreal, it made "The Muppet Movie" look like a documentary. The Brian De Palma-directed, Rod Serling-narrated cult musical "Phantom of the Paradise," which featured Paul playing evil record producer Swan, was critically panned at the time, but Paul's music for the film was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe. We suggest Paul remake the movie now, four decades later…with Daft Punk doing the soundtrack this time.
3. He co-wrote the theme to "The Love Boat."
We wouldn't have lyrics like "Lovvvvve won't hurt anymore/It's an open smile on a friendly shore" if not for Paul's genius. This one really needs the Daft Punk remix treatment as well.
4. He helped build the Carpenters' career.
Are you a fan of the Carpenters' massive hits "Rainy Days and Mondays" and "We've Only Just Begun"? Well, you have Paul to thank for those classics, too.
5. He was almost a Monkee.
Paul auditioned for musical sitcom "The Monkees" back in the '60s, along with his friend Stephen Stills, but because he was a contract songwriter with an existing publishing deal, he didn't get the part. Later in the early '80s, Paul's path crossed with the Monkees' Mickey Dolenz, when Mickey directed a stage adaptation of the film "Bugsy Malone," for which Paul had written the original music. "It turns out my life turned out much better than it would’ve if I’d been a Monkee," Paul said in an interview at the South by Southwest festival in 2012.
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