Paul Williams to Receive Johnny Mercer Award at Songwriters Hall of Fame

Paul Williams
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 Paul Williams is seen at the 6th Annual Latin Songwriters Hall Of Fame La Musa Awards at James L Knight Center on Oct. 18, 2018 in Miami. 

Williams received three Grammy nominations for song of the year, for 'We've Only Just Begun,' 'You and Me Against the World' and 'Evergreen.'

Paul Williams is set to receive the prestigious Johnny Mercer Award at the 51st Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony on June 11 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.

The award, the SHOF's highest honor, is given each year to a songwriter, already inducted into the Hall, "whose body of work is of such high quality and impact, that it upholds the gold standard set by the legendary Johnny Mercer," as the SHOF says. Williams was inducted in 2001.

Nile Rodgers, chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, said in a statement, "Paul Williams is a songwriter's songwriter. He’s one of the most wonderful and colorful creators of our time and a man who has given the world so much love through songs like 'Just An Old Fashioned Love Song,' 'We’ve Only Just Begun' and 'Rainbow Connection.'"

Rodgers and Williams were collaborators on Daft Punk's 2013 album Random Access Memories, which brought them both Grammys for album of the year. Williams' two previous Grammys were for "Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)," which won the 1976 award for song of year, and The Muppet Movie, which took the 1979 award for best recording for children.

Williams, 79, received three Grammy nominations for song of the year, for "We've Only Just Begun" (1970), "You and Me Against the World" (1974) and "Evergreen" (1977). He wrote all three songs with different composers -- Roger Nichols, Kenny Ascher and Barbra Streisand, respectively.

He has also received three Oscar nominations for best original song, for "Nice to Be Around" from Cinderella Liberty (1973), "Evergreen" from A Star Is Born (1976) and "The Rainbow Connection" from The Muppet Movie (1979).

Williams has two songs on the American Film Institute’s 2004 list, 100 Years…100 Songs, a ranking of the top film songs of all time. "Evergreen" ranked No. 16 on that list. "Rainbow Connection," from The Muppet Movie, ranked No. 74. He co-wrote the latter song with Ascher.

Williams won an Oscar for writing the lyric to "Evergreen." He is just the fifth recipient of the Johnny Mercer Award who has won both an Oscar for best original song and a Grammy for song of the year. He follows Burt Bacharach (Oscars for "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" and "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)," Grammy for "That's What Friends Are For"); Marilyn and Alan Bergman (Oscars for "The Windmills of Your Mind" and "The Way We Were," Grammy for "The Way We Were"); Stephen Sondheim (Oscar for "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)," Grammy for "Send in the Clowns") and Lionel Richie (Oscar for "Say You, Say Me," Grammy for "We Are the World").

Mercer would also be on that list, but the award that is given in his honor was introduced in 1980, four years after he died at age 66. Mercer won four Oscars for best original song, for "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" (1946), "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" (1951), "Moon River" (1961) and "Days of Wine and Roses" (1962). The latter two songs, both co-written with Henry Mancini, also won Grammys for song of the year.

Williams is president and chairman of the board of the American Society Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Two other board members have received the Johnny Mercer Award—Marilyn Bergman (who received the honor in 1997) and Jimmy Webb (who received it in 2003).

Williams is also passionate about recovery and works tirelessly to destigmatize alcoholism and addiction. His career, life, and work in recovery were chronicled in the 2011 documentary, Paul Williams Still Alive.

The droll and self-deprecating Williams has predicted he'll be remembered for playing Little Enos in the Smokey and the Bandit trilogy and for writing the  lyrics to TV's kitschy The Love Boat. You could say the diminutive songwriter is selling himself short.

Inductees at this year's SHOF event are Mariah Carey, Steve Miller, Rick Nowels, William "Mickey" Stevenson and the individual members of three ensembles -- Annie Lennox/Dave Stewart (Eurythmics); Chad Hugo/Pharrell Williams (The Neptunes); and Ernie Isley/Marvin Isley/O’Kelly Isley/Ronald Isley/Rudolph Isley/Chris Jasper (The Isley Brothers).


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