Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.—John Keats, the final stanza of “To Autumn”
John Keats composed “To Autumn,” one of his masterpieces, on this date in 1819.
* * * *
It is the birthday of singer/songwriter/actor/friend of Kermit the Frog/President of ASCAP/recovery advocate Paul Williams today. He is a personal hero of mine.
Whatever one may call a 76-year-old who is still winning awards for new music, is an advocate for recovery, and also testifies before Congress on behalf of song creators, you may as well call that “Paul Williams” from now on, because that is still his day-to-day life.
Further, Mr. Williams appears to have set for himself a personal goal of speaking with (in-person or online) every human being he possibly can meet. That is the only way I can explain him saying kind things to me on my Instagram account via his Instagram account.
I am as awkward around famous people as I am around people people. Even the clunkiness of that sentence captures my general social clunkiness.
It is entirely likely that anyone within reading distance of this blog has met more famous people (and more-famous people) than I have. A well-balanced person treats the waiter like a prince and talks with royalty like they’re the next-door neighbors; I am well-balanced, but not in a good way: famous, infamous, or unknown, I usually treat everyone like he or she is a teacher who has announced a pop quiz that I have not studied for.
Social media has made it easier for people to have certain kinds of encounters with the famous among us; many celebrities and politicians personally run their online fan clubs. Many do not. This has not made these encounters any less attention-grabbing for me when they do happen. (Three of my all-time favorite writers followed my Twitter account, two of them within a week of each other; I was a six-foot-tall cliché of self-importance that week. Two of them have since “unfollowed” me. I was a six-foot-tall cliché of crushed.)
If you have not seen Stephen Kessler’s excellent documentary Paul Williams Still Alive from 2012, you ought to. It is still on Netflix. The trailer (after the jump):