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Exclusive: Paul Williams On Writing For The Carpenters

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Photo: GAB Archive/Redferns

Grammy-winning songwriter, ASCAP president, artist and actor Paul Williams has been talking about his days of composing classic hits for the Carpenters, with his then-collaborator Roger Nichols.

Williams’ hit catalogue also includes Barbra Streisand’s Oscar-winning ‘Evergreen,’ Helen Reddy’s ‘You and Me Against The World,’ Three Dog Night’s ‘An Old Fashioned Love Song’ and ‘Out In The Country’ and even ‘Rainbow Connection’ for the Muppets. But in exclusive quotes here for uDiscover, Williams speaks about the celebrated relationship that he and Nichols had around the turn of the 1970s with Richard and Karen Carpenter.

The pair composed the duo’s timeless hits ‘We’ve Only Just Begun,’ ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’ and ‘I Won’t Last A Day Without You’; they also created ‘I Kept On Loving You’ for 1970’s ‘Close To You’ album and ‘Let Me Be The One’ for the following year’s ‘Carpenters.’

The Beatles - Now And Then
The Beatles - Now And Then
The Beatles - Now And Then

“My thing has always been “No one’s looking over my shoulder while I’m writing [the songs], I’m not looking over their shoulder when they’re recording them,’” says Williams. “But [Karen] would call and say ‘You guys want to hear ‘Rainy Days And Mondays’? and we’d go ‘Yeeeeah!’

“And we’d run down the stairs from our offices, go across the lot to the recording studio, you’d sit there and they’d play you a record that was just stunning. That’s probably the most exciting thing about being a songwriter is hearing what the artist brings to the material. When Karen sang it, the world responded to that emotion. She was so special.”

Williams, now 74, was in London in May to receive the PRS For Music Special International Award at the 2015 Ivor Novello Awards. In addition to his work as a champion and defender of the art of songwriting in his role at ASCAP, continues to be a much in-demand and highly successful practitioner of the craft himself.

He contributed two songs to Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories,’ which went on to win the Grammy for Album of the Year. This was after it emerged that Daft Punk were huge fans of the 1974 horror musical ‘Phantom of the Paradise,’ in which Williams starred and for which he the soundtrack.

As he told PRS For Music’s M magazine, the writer is now composing the lyrics for a new musical version of the film ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ with the movie’s director Guillermo del Toro, with music by Gustavo Santaolalla, a double Oscar winner for ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and ‘Babel.’

“The people that chose to record [our songs] had huge records with them,” added Williams, “because they made a hit record of a song that was evidently meaningful to a lot of people that got to hear it.”

Explore our dedicated Carpenters Artist Page


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  1. Leigh Broadway

    July 10, 2015 at 12:42 am

    Karen remains my favorite female singer of all time. Her unique and timeless sound continues to evoke joy and pain when I listen to her music. She was a once in a lifetime talent. “Superstar” remains my favorite ballad in pop music.

    • Lori

      July 10, 2015 at 5:33 am

      Amen to that, sister!

  2. Thanawan Benjacholarit

    July 10, 2015 at 5:59 am

    I’m glad to know you the great writer of all my favourite songs especially The Carpenter. I would like to say even the long time pass by , all those songs’ve never faded down from my mind.

  3. Lisa

    July 10, 2015 at 9:41 am

    I loved Karen, still play her music and smile because of her lovely voice. She left us much too soon.

  4. Lisa Champ Paluck

    July 10, 2015 at 9:49 am

    I loved Karen, still listen to her music and smile.

  5. Mara

    July 10, 2015 at 9:55 am

    I’ve always loved the Carpenters! I was very fortunate to see them in concert in 1973. It was my first concert! She had the voice of an angel!!

  6. Paulett

    July 10, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    Love the Carpenters, I have all of their albums.

  7. Gladys Olmedo

    July 10, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    This is only a question for Paul, I think I went to Junior High with you. It was George Washington Jr. High, in long beach California, please let me know if it was you. Thank you.

    • Jason

      October 7, 2019 at 5:16 pm

      From Wikipedia:

      Williams was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Paul Hamilton Williams, an architectural engineer, and his wife, Bertha Mae (née Burnside), a homemaker.

      His father died in a car accident in 1953, when Williams was 13 years old, after which Williams grew up living with his aunt. As a result, Williams moved to Long Beach, California, with his family and attended Woodrow Wilson Classical High School.

  8. sandra fletcher

    July 13, 2017 at 8:37 am

    Love the carparters and Karens singing

  9. ron neymeyer

    December 17, 2017 at 8:23 am

    The Carpenters were the best music i have ever heard, and i still fell the loss of her. Richard has made some excellent changes in many of the great hits. Christmas isn’t if i haven’t heard the ?Carpenters music. Paul Williams as a equal in writing music for the Carpenters, which is amazing, as excellent as Richard was/is. Just one wish on this Christmas eve,………………….Merry Merry Christmas !

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The Beatles Red and Blue Boxsets
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