Grammys 2014: Who is Daft Punk’s pal Paul Williams?

Paul Williams, a collaborator on Daft Punk's album "Random Access Memories," shows off his Grammy for album of the year.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Daft Punk’s multiple wins at Sunday’s Grammy Awards, where the hipster-beloved French duo scored coveted trophies for album and record of the year, no doubt led some viewers to turn to Google with a question: “Who is Daft Punk?

Pop fans familiar with the robot-masked group, though, might’ve been wondering something else: Who is that small, spiky-haired fellow accepting the album prize with a speech about sobriety?

The answer is Paul Williams.

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A veteran music-industry presence who’d already won two Grammys prior to Sunday’s ceremony, Williams worked as a vocalist and songwriter on Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories,” singing the sci-fi ballad “Touch” and penning lyrics about “a world where time is not allowed” for “Beyond.”

“Back when I was drinking, I used to imagine things that weren’t there that were frightening,” the 73-year-old said after taking the stage with Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo. “Then I got sober and two robots called me and asked me to make an album.”

They likely were seeking out the kind of plush melancholy that Williams once helped provide for the Carpenters, who recorded his songs “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “We’ve Only Just Begun,” and Barbra Streisand, with whom he wrote “Evergreen.”

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The love theme from Streisand’s movie “A Star Is Born,” “Evergreen” topped Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1977, and the next year it earned Williams his first Grammy, for song of the year. (The tune won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe as well.) His next Grammy came in 1980 for the soundtrack to “The Muppet Movie,” which was named best recording for children.

Over a long career that has included his own solo albums, occasional acting jobs and his current gig as president of the trade group ASCAP, Williams has also written songs for Three Dog Night and Helen Reddy. More recently, he collaborated with the New York disco-pop outfit Scissor Sisters on their 2006 album “Ta-Dah,” a youth-culture hook-up that may have paved the way toward his meeting with Daft Punk.

But if you’re reading this because you didn’t recognize Williams on Sunday, then you probably already know about Scissor Sisters. What you might not know is “Rainy Days and Mondays,” which after more than 40 years can still bring a grown man (or perhaps a robot) to tears. Have a listen below.


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Twitter: @mikaelwood


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