Sunday, October 19, 2014

When Patti Dahlstrom was nearly killed by Paul Williams

Paul Williams rushed to the bleeding Patti Dahlstrom, crying, "What have I done??"

Patti, dazed and bleeding, remembers now, "His voice became faint..." Slipping in and out of consciousness, she barely heard him say "Patti, an ambulance is on its way..."

You know Paul Williams. His songwriting credits include a lot of MOR ballads. But he didn't write "Killing Me Softly," and he was hoping he hadn't killed Patti Dahlstrom.

Paul did write "kill me now" romance songs that rock critics hated. These include: "Evergreen" as cooed by Stresiand, "We've Only Just Begun" as mewled by The Carpenters, and the silly "An Old Fashioned Love Song" (Three Dog Night).

He wrote "You And Me Against the World" covered by Helen "Hear Me Roar" Reddy. If you're still not repulsed, how about "Rainbow Connection" sung by The Muppets?

Yeah, that Paul Williams...who redeemed himself with a sense of humor in films (he was paired with giant comedian Pat McCormick in "Smokey and the Bandit") and the cult classic "Phantom of the Paradise."

Back when Patti was lying on the ground, her face smashed and bleeding, they were both young songwriters just beginning to get breaks. They often played their newest songs for each other. Patti's style wasn't as kitschy-coo as Paul's. So, did they come to blows over artistic direction? Did they have some kind of lethal argument?

No, Paul was showing off his Cunningham Bugatti, bright red with beige leather interior: "Paul started out and fairly fast, I think, probably 80 miles an hour on that turning twisting road. But it didn't feel that fast because the car was built to race, and holding the ground that well, the curving of the road felt natural and easy..."

Until he lost traction. "I remembered flying out of that car when the rear wheel hit a curb and broke the axle. I dreamed it. But back then all I had was Paul's description, "I looked up and you were over my head about eight feet and being thrown about twenty feet away.” And she heard a voice say "the odds are 50,000 to 1 that the doctors can save the left side of your face..."

The full details of the accident, and the faith that pulled her through it, is in her book "Traveling With Jesus: Learning on the Road of Life." It's not exactly a huge 13,000 words it's more of a very long feature magazine piece. That makes it a quick, good read. Check for the download link.

And for those who don't yet know Patti Dahlstrom...check the CD re-issue of her best songs. She's been recorded by Thelma Houston, Cilla Black, and Shirley Bassey among others. She and Paul both have had a song covered by Helen Reddy. In Patti's case, it's "Emotion," English lyrics comfortably atop the melody from Veronique Sanson. Patti recorded four solo albums...featuring rollicking Southern rock, earthy songs about life and love, and much more. "I Never Did" is one of her classy ballads, and you'll find it below, from the original vinyl.


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