(This is a blog I originally wrote for my MySpace page, carried over to my Louie Report pages, as opposed to the other way around)
I fell in love with Cindy Lee Berryhill back in 1992.
I was walking around the American Book Association convention in Anaheim that year, casually bumping into all sorts of people- Jimmy Carter, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and all sorts of other folks that happened be at the big book publishing industry tradeshow. I went to this event to meet up with Dave Marsh, who was about to release a book about LOUIE LOUIE, and see this new band he was in called the ROCK BOTTOM REMAINDERS*, featuring all sort of literary types you wouldn’t expect to do music- Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Matt Groening, and a handful others.
Anyways, so I’m walking around the convention, and I see a very pretty blonde woman sitting at a booth, strumming a guitar. I decide to talk to her, and find out she’s written some very entertaining songs. I tell her about my LOUIE LOUIE documentary project, and she tells me all about her experience with the song, playing it at a high school talent show. It’s such a great story that I decided to go to my car and get my bulky 3/4″ camera package to shoot a segment with her. It’s an absolutely wonderful story and performance that I’m happy to get on tape. She introduces me to her friend Paul Williams, who just happens to be the founder of Crawdaddy, which was the first serious rock and roll magazine, coming out years before Rolling Stone magazine. It was one of those great days for me, as I fell in love with a great singer-songwriter that just happened to be a very nice person that shared her story for my documentary.
After meeting Cindy Lee, I decide to track down some of her CDs, which I all enjoyed. She had a funny song about “wishing she was a man” so she could “have a belly like Jack Nicholson.” She wrote really catchy songs with well-crafted lyrics. Over the years, she’d do shows in San Francisco, and it was always a treat to see her again. I’d continue to buy her new CDs, including “Garage Orchestra,” which was practically glued in my CD player for the longest time. Every song on that CD I loved – “Gary Handleman,” “I Want Stuff,” “I Wonder Why,”…. not a turkey in the bunch.
Then, I hadn’t heard about Cindy Lee in many years. I heard she married Paul Williams and dropped out of the music industry to raise a child. She certainly wasn’t the first musician to drop out to raise a kid, so it was nothing unusual.
Last year, I heard that Cindy Lee was back doing music. She wrote a new song called “What If Jesus Was a Republican” and was about to release her first album in many years. Around the same time, Neil Young was releasing his “Living with War” so there was some similar synergy going on- pissed-off people that happened to be musicians. It was a theme I could definitely relate to.
She’s got her new album out, and as I created my MySpace profile, I had to add her along my list of friends, just to re-connect and all… Today, she sent out a little email to her fans about an article about her new album and her marriage with Paul Williams. I didn’t realize that Paul suffered a traumatic brain injury back in 1995. Her new album addresses her experience of living with a husband recovering from and living with traumatic brain injury. In the article she states “The song came from my experience with Paul but I couched it in a story about a soldier coming home from war with a brain injury.”
In the article, Cindy says “I can’t know what it’s like to have a loved one coming back from war injured, and my fingers are crossed as my nephew is stationed in Baghdad with the Army right now, but I do know what it’s like to be with a loved one after a traumatic brain injury and all the daily challenges in the long term of sustaining a relationship with that loved one.”
“We definitely have our problems to work out: getting disability in place, child care, and so on . But Paul still has a lot to offer, I mean he is the ‘Forrest Gump‘ of rock.. How many folks do you know that marched and cocked rifles on the Doors‘ ‘Unknown Soldier’ or got a phone call in his college dorm from Bob Dylan or smoked pot for the first time with Brian Wilson in a tent in Brian’s living room while listening to the acetates of the Beach Boys lost Smile album, or sold his New York City loft to the great beat writer William Burroughs. He also sang with John and Yoko on ‘Give Peace A Chance’ at their Bed-In For Peace. I mean Paul really is the great ‘Almost Famous’ of rock and roll and still such a fine writer.”
You can read the full article at:
I knew Paul Williams had some interesting experiences in the rock and roll universe, but I had no idea his life was so diverse. As I’ve been digging through a pile of old Crawdaddy magazines that were given to me a few years ago, I’ve been discovering some great writings.
Both Cindy Lee Berryhill and Paul Williams are exceptional human beings. I applaud them for their persistence, their courage, and their spirit.
With love and respect,
* Of course, I really should mention that Kathi Kamen Goldmark is responsible for putting the Rock Bottom Remainders together. You can read all about this group, and her “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” Records label at dqydj.com. If you’re in San Franciso on a second Tuesday of the month, you might be able to join her at the All-Star Jams with Train Wreck shows at El Rio. It’s a fun scene…