Historical records matching Paul Simon
About Paul Simon
One of the most paradoxical figures in rock-and-roll history, Paul Simon exemplified many of the principles against which the music initially reacted. From his first big hit, “The Sounds of Silence,” in 1965, Simon aspired to a self-consciously elevated poetic tone in his lyric writing that was the antithesis of rock-and-roll spontaneity. Infatuated with teenage street music in the mid-1950s, he returned throughout his career to the wellspring of dreamy doo-wop vocal harmony for inspiration and refreshment. But his approach to the style that enraptured him was analytical, as though he wanted to enshrine under glass a sound that his surreal 1983 song “René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War” described as “deep forbidden music.”
Simon was born to Jewish American parents: Belle, an English teacher, and Louis Simon, a bandleader and teacher. His family soon moved to Queens in New York City. Paul's musical career began in Forest Hills High School when he and his friend Art Garfunkel began singing together as a duo, occasionally performing at school dances. The duo formed the band Tom and Jerry. Though they had a hit with 'Hey Schoolgirl', they broke up to go to college, and didn’t reunite until 1964.
Beginning with “The Sounds of Silence,” they were the most popular folk-pop duo of the 1960s and the musical darlings of literary-minded college-age baby boomers. In 1967 their music was a key ingredient in the success of the hit film The Graduate, and in 1970 they reached their zenith with Simon's inspirational gospel-flavoured anthem “Bridge over Troubled Water,” which showcased Garfunkel's soaring, semioperatic tenor.
Simon's best early songs tend to be bookish, angst-ridden reveries with simple folk rock melodies and earnest, poetically ambitious (but often mannered) lyrics, some influenced by Bob Dylan. Simon's best narrative song from this period, “The Boxer” (1969), is the streamlined dramatic monologue of a down-and-out prizefighter.
Simon's fascination with pop vocal sound quickly expanded to include the sparkle of English folk music, the ethereal pipes and voices of Andean mountain music, and the arching passion of gospel. After he and Garfunkel broke up in 1970 (they reunited briefly in the early 1980s for a tour and a live album), Simon pursued a successful career as a singer-songwriter of whimsical, introspective songs with tricky time signatures. His biggest solo success came in 1975 with Still Crazy After All These Years, a collection of wistful ruminations on approaching middle age.
When his popularity began to ebb, Simon jumped on the emerging world-music bandwagon. On a visit to South Africa, he met many of the musicians with whom he made Graceland (1986), an exquisite, multifaceted fusion of his own sophisticated stream-of-consciousness poetry with black South Africa's doo-wop-influenced “township jive” and Zulu choral music. Although some accused him of cultural thievery—i.e., the appropriation and exploitation of another culture's music—the album was one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful of the decade and helped put South African music on the world stage.
Simon made a similar pilgrimage to Brazil to record Rhythm of the Saints (1990), an even denser (and somewhat less popular) fusion of African-derived percussion with American folk rock. Its quirky nonlinear lyrics were indebted to the language of the Nobel Prize-winning Caribbean poet Derek Walcott. Walcott became Simon's collaborator on The Capeman, Simon's first Broadway musical, which opened in January 1998 and was a critical and commercial failure. Based on a highly publicized 1959 New York City murder involving a Puerto Rican street gang, The Capeman featured a score by Simon (Walcott collaborated on the lyrics) that was a theatrical elaboration of the New York street music that had originally inspired him. But it also emphasized the long-underappreciated Hispanic contribution to urban pop.
In 1999 Simon teamed with Bob Dylan for a summer tour in the United States. The concert series, which ended Simon's eight-year absence from the road, marked the first time the two performers formally worked together. Later that year Simon continued on a solo tour, and in 2000 released You're the One, an understated and introspective album that was a departure from the expansive sound of Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints.
Among songwriters of his generation, Simon enjoyed one of the longest-lasting careers as a pop innovator. Searching out and exploring the sounds of indigenous musical cultures, from Southern gospel to Brazilian and West African percussion, he integrated them into American rock and folk styles to create a highly flexible, personalized style of world music that was at once primitive and elegant. Simon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
On March 1, 2007, Simon made headlines when he was announced as the first recipient of the recently-created Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The Prize, created by the Library of Congress, was awarded to Simon during a Concert Gala featuring his music at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., on the evening of May 23. The event was nationally broadcast on PBS on the evening of June 27, 2007. Performers at the concert included Shawn Colvin, Philip Glass, Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Lyle Lovett, James Taylor, and Stevie Wonder as well as Simon's former collaborator Art Garfunkel. On June 26, Warner Bros. released the definitive Paul Simon greatest-hits collection. The Essential Paul Simon consisted of two discs that reviewed 36 songs from his ten studio albums, and was also released on a special edition featuring a DVD of music videos and memorable live performances.
In 2009, Simon performed back-to-back shows in his native New York City at the Beacon Theatre, which had recently been renovated. Simon was reunited with Art Garfunkel at the first show as well as with the cast of The Capeman; also playing in the band was Graceland bassist Bakithi Kumalo. He also toured with Art Garfunkel in Australia, New Zealand and Japan and at the 25th Anniversary of The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The pair performed four of their most popular songs, "The Sounds of Silence", "The Boxer", "Cecilia", and "Bridge Over Troubled Water".
Simon is working on a new album due for a late 2010 release. The album will have bluegrass influence. On June 1, 2010 it was reported that Paul Simon was attempting to have Bob Dylan guest on the new album. In reference to the new album, Simon claims, "It's the best work I've done in 20 years."
Simon has been married three times. He married Peggy Harper in 1969 and they had a son, Harper Simon, in 1972. They divorced on good terms in 1975. The song "Train in the Distance", from Simon's 1983 album, is about this relationship. His second marriage was to actress Carrie Fisher, to whom he proposed after a baseball game. They were married in 1983 but the marriage lasted only eleven months.
In 1992, Paul married singer Edie Brickell and they have three children together - Adrian Edward, Lulu and Gabriel Elijah.