Arts & Entertainment

Composer Paul Williams joining the Muppets at the Hollywood Bowl

Courtesy of The Muppets
Courtesy of Paul Williams
KPCC's Alex Cohen with composer Paul Williams outside of Studio F.
KPCC


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This weekend, Kermit, Miss Piggy and Fozzy will take to the stage at the Hollywood Bowl.

"The Muppets Take the Bowl" will feature not only some of America's favorite furry creatures, but some human performers too, including Paul Williams. The musician, composer and actor has earned a spot in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, three Grammys, two Golden Globes and an Oscar.

He's even appeared on "The Muppet Show" before:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ekbe3sB1Dz4

Williams told KPCC's Alex Cohen what it's like to write music for the Muppets and what it's been like to experience a career revival after a long struggle with addiction to alcohol, cocaine and fame. Below are some highlights of that chat.

You wrote a lot of music for the Muppets, including the soundtrack for the original Muppet Movie. But you were also writing a lot of other songs at the time for the likes of The Carpenters, Three Dog Night and Helen Reddy. As a musician, is there a difference between writing songs for humans and for Muppets?

The Muppets were the hippest creatures that ever got to sing my songs. One of the cardinal rules of writing for Jim Henson was that you don't write down for anybody when you are writing for the Muppets. You write for the story and you write for the characters, which is what good scoring for a film is.  When I'm writing for Gonzo, I'm not writing for the kids listening to Gonzo, I'm writing for Gonzo and what's in his heart. And that became a really easy task for me because the characters always touched me. 

On his sobriety

I was from the Midwest, a little guy who was all of a sudden in the middle of Hollywood and had failed as an actor. I started writing songs for my own amusement. And suddenly this whole amazing world opened up. There was some part of me that was feeling like maybe I didn't quite belong there. Alcohol would cover up the fear and then I discovered cocaine. I loved the way that it medicated my fear.

I became better at showing off than showing up ...

Click on the blue play button above to hear the rest of Alex's extended conversation with Williams.