intimate club…a live album.
And musicians second Tucker’s evaluation many times over the years, covering Karl Williams’ songs on both major and independent labels.
Fast-forward to late 1999 and Williams’ CD-single "To the New Century," a hard-edged anthem featuring toasts in 17 languages, is picked up by radio stations around the world, and the story of the song’s travels appears in Bruce Pollock’s “Working Musicians” (HarperCollins, 2002).
But Karl Williams’ ability as a songwriter has not kept him on any straight-and-narrow. He didn’t get around to trying his hand at writing until 1980 - after spending most of 70s working with kids with cognitive disabilities. And by the late 80s he was beginning to feel as if his life had been cut in two. So he took up a challenge from a noted author and wrote a song especially for Speaking For Ourselves, a “self-advocacy” group - folks with this same disability working for respect and for their civil rights.
When Williams found that his words and music could serve the group's cause, he knew he'd found the way to put his divided life back together. And so Williams began to provide a kind of soundtrack for the daily struggle of those in the movement. Williams’ self-advocacy songs are now regularly performed before national, regional, and local audiences in the US, Canada, and Europe; they’ve been translated, used in books, on websites, in videos, and in plays. Eventually Williams’ efforts were rewarded by critical acclaim outside the movement. RESPECT: SONGS OF THE SELF-ADVOCACY MOVEMENT, the CD Williams produced and recorded with the US national group, was a candidate for Best Contemporary Folk Album in the 1998 Grammy Awards. And since then Williams’ work with the movement has earned him three ASCAP Awards.
And although Williams has continued with his popular writing - his songs being picked up by publishers and songpluggers - he’s also followed his interests…and his heart. Williams’ first children's CD, BIG FISH LITTLE FISH, won high praise from both SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL and PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, and was added to a program of the Jane Goodall Institute. His second album for kids, UNCLE ROBOT: SONG FOR YOUNG FAMILIES, released in December 2003, won the same kind of critical acclaim.
In addition to his songs, Williams has published two as-told-to autobiographies with leaders in the self-advocacy movement. His first play, based on one of these works, premiered recently, not long after a theatre company had selected a Williams short story for its Writing Aloud Series.
Williams is now finishing up a third as-told-to book, this one with a graphic artist whose autism went misdiagnosed as schizophrenia until she was in her forties, as well as shopping his own autobiographical novel. In fact, SingOut! Magazine's comment on one of Williams’ early songs might suit the man himself: “Something of a classic…”