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Paul Williams: ever-evolving

The 73-year-old songwriter, who reemerged on the scene with his Daft Punk collaboration, is bringing yet a new kind of show to Irvine.

March 18, 2014|By Michael Miller

When the faceless duo Daft Punk won the Grammy for Album of the Year in January, a short, spiky-haired man joined them on stage and announced, "Back when I was drinking, I used to imagine things that weren't there that were frightening. Then I got sober, and two robots called me and asked me to make an album."

Attention, music fans: The man who uttered those words is coming to the University Synagogue in Irvine on March 27. To tell stories, no less.

Singer-songwriter Paul Williams may have looked like an unlikely partner for the members of Daft Punk, who appear in public in futuristic garb that vaguely recalls the Stormtroopers from "Star Wars." But considering that Williams' previous career has ranged from writing an Oscar-winning song with Barbra Streisand to composing material for the Muppets and acting in the Burt Reynolds comedy "Smokey and the Bandit," well, why not toss in a robot or two?

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"I've had an absolutely blessed life," said the 73-year-old performer, who contributed lyrics and vocals to Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" album and will join a lineup of other singers at University Synagogue for a fundraising show.

Williams plans to sing during the evening, but for the most part, he'll stand back and serve as a tour guide of sorts. Ten soloists — six men, four women — have been lined up to present the songwriter's classics, and Williams will accompany each rendition with a story about the song's creation.

Here's one, for a taste: "We've Only Just Begun," the 1970 ballad hit for the Carpenters, began life as a jingle for Crocker National Bank. Williams and his co-writer, Roger Nichols, had been approached to score a television commercial and came up with a short piece, only to have the brother-sister duo take an expanded version of it to No. 2 on Billboard's Hot 100.

"Roger Nichols and I were approached to write a bank commercial," Williams said. "It was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to write rock and roll. It's interesting how sometimes our success, you just cannot plot."

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'It was like magic'

Success isn't always foremost on Williams' mind these days. Not headlining success, anyway. He enjoyed the laurels that came with the Daft Punk project, but he's content to be at the "center of the herd" much of the time.

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