Book Review: Paul Williams’s ‘Right to Pass and Other True Stories’

Paul Williams's Right to Pass and Other True Stories

Paul Williams’s groundbreaking, highly personalized Outlaw Blues, which first appeared in 1969, has long rated among my favorite rock books. And ever since I read it, I’ve been waiting for him to come up with something even better. This isn’t it, but much of the content represents a big step in the right direction.

Most notably, the volume includes heartfelt essays on Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and the Rolling Stones, plus a long 1969 piece on Woodstock which, while naive, successfully captures the spirit of its time. Acting on his sensitivity to being pigeonholed as a rock writer, Williams elsewhere tries his hand at everything from poetry to sports reporting. Some of the results aren’t bad, some are terrible, but all indicate that music-related writing constitutes his strongest suit. Fortunately, there’s enough of that here to make the book worth owning.

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