That clip is worth watching. See if you can find it. It also brought to mind his wonderful appearance on Saturday Night Live at Thanksgiving when he walked out on stage in a turkey costume and with a totally straight face, sang “Still Crazy.” You always know with Paul that while he’s deadly serious about his music, he still knows that he should never take himself too seriously. How can you not admire that?
I remember going to see his movie “One Trick Pony,” which is the story of a marginally well known musician on the road with his band and trying to not cave in to the commercial demands of his record label. It is a “small” movie and somewhat clichéd in parts but the music is absolutely sublime and I’m sure many elements were totally autobiographical. Worth seeking out on Netflix. And that album, although not a huge seller contains some of his best work.
His relationship with Art Garfunkel is complex, to say the least. I think he still harbors resentment that “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” is still mostly identified with Garfunkel even though Simon wrote it, along with 95% of the other classic music they recorded together. However, they both understand the love their fans have for the music that is forever linked to the two of them and they put aside their differences from time to time to perform, often for good causes.
Simon has never been one to sit still, musically speaking and with the 25th anniversary of the epic “Graceland” album this coming year, Simon will be going out on tour again with many of the members of the band that made that album, including the unbelievable Ladysmith Black Mambazo. It is not well remembered now but shortly after that album was released Simon was accused of exploiting the South African musicians, which was a patently absurd claim. But it affected Simon deeply and always a very private person, he became even more reclusive. In any case, the tour was a huge success and every list of the best albums in rock music always includes Graceland – as they should. I hope to see the reunion tour next year!
What that album did was introduce millions of people to what we now call World Music, the melding of musical influences from around the world. You have to wonder if there had never been a Paul Simon (or Bob Marley for that matter) whether we would have the wonderful multi-cultural music that is heard today.
He followed that three years later with “Rhythm of the Saints” and while that album didn’t have quite the commercial success of “Graceland” it offered the sounds of the streets of Brazil, more of the African influences played by musicians from many countries on that continent, all coming together with Simon’s wonderful melodies and lyrics.
What has always struck me personally about Simon’s lyrics is their deceptive simplicity. Any songwriter who can conjure up vivid images with very few words has to be classified as truly great. Over and over I’ve said to myself: oh, man, I wish I’d written that! “…diamonds on the soles of her shoes. Well, that’s one way to lose these walkin’ blues.” Just one example….
When my daughter turned 16 I could think of no better way to express my feelings than some of his lyrics, that I wrote in her birthday card:
“I’m gonna watch you shine, watch you grow,
Gonna paint a sign so you’ll always know,
As long as one and one is two,
There could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you.”
I get choked up just writing those words now!
So, thanks Paul.
I can’t wait to hear what Paul Simon will come up next.
Peace & good music,