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Paul Simon - An Appreciation

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by HC, Mar 10, 2011.

  1. HC

    HC Well-Known Member

    I’ve had Paul Simon on the brain this week.

    His new single The Afterlife is out and it’s a winner. It’s also the 40th anniversary of the release of the album Bridge Over Troubled Water in celebration of which XM Radio is running a “Simon & Garfunkel” channel (#38, if you’re interested) which has been playing in our car all this week and it’s made me reflect on the music that has been a part of my personal soundtrack since childhood.

    Paul Simon is one of the truly great American songwriters. I’m talking Gershwin/Berlin/Rogers & Hart/Great American Songbook kind of great. Just look at his musical progress from the first minor hit Hey Schoolgirl (recorded with Art Garfunkel under the name ‘Tom and Jerry’ in 1957) through folk (Scarborough Fair), ballads (Bridge Over Troubled Water), straight up pop(Kodachrome) and world music (Graceland). And it never felt like these transitions were anything other than a natural evolution. It never seemed like an aging pop star trying to remain relevant.

    I think his lyric writing sets him apart too. Prime example, the opening verse & chorus of The Afterlife which continue to tickle me on rehearing as much as the first time I heard them:

    After I died, and the makeup had dried, I went back to my place.
    No moon that night, but a heavenly light shone on my face.
    Still I thought it was odd, there was no sign of God just to usher me in.
    Then a voice from above, sugar coated with Love, said, “Let us begin”.

    You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line.
    You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line.

    My all time favourite Paul Simon song doesn’t seem to be as well known as it deserves. A lot of pop artists have borrowed from classical music but I honestly believe that no one has topped his American Tune, a gorgeous song about the immigrant experience in America set to the melody of Bach’s great Easter chorale “O Sacred Head Surrounded”.

    I first discovered this song on the live album “Concert in Central Park” and it’s been a personal favourite for me ever since. I’ve performed the song myself but honestly don’t believe that anyone will ever top Paul Simon’s performance - straightforward, unadorned, no vocal histrionics, no band. Check it out here:

    You can thank me later. :)
  2. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Christ. I thought he had died.
  3. JR

    JR Well-Known Member

    You should hear our duets in the car. :)
  4. HC

    HC Well-Known Member

    God has enough short Jewish composers for now.
  5. Sam Mills 51

    Sam Mills 51 Active Member

    HC, I heard "American Tune" plenty of times since my folks had the Concert in Central Park on cassette when I was much younger.

    Paul Simon has always been overlooked, and it's probably because the music talks instead of promotion. Fantastic with Art Garfunkel - favorite is "The Only Living Boy In New York" as a duo - and great as a solo act, too. It was all our losses that he and Garfunkel feuded for all those years ... goodness knows how many great albums and tracks were lost because of it.

    Best solo track? Prone to go with "Something So Right." "Hearts and Bones" is somewhere in the running, but I'll stick with my original pick. It was fun to see the video to "You Can Call Me Al," which Chevy Chase came to the rescue to bail out an original idea Simon did not like:

  6. Big Circus

    Big Circus Well-Known Member

    I don't know as much Simon as I should, but the songs of his on my iPod get serious play. Late in the Evening, Me and Julio, Peace Like a River...damn.

    As an aside, Spoon does a version of Peace Like a River that JAMS.
  7. Captain_Kirk

    Captain_Kirk Well-Known Member

    His 70s material seems somewhat underappreciated today. Tunes like "Mother and Child Reunion", "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" and my fave "Kodachrome" you don't run across as much as you perhaps should.

    And I'll pull a wonderful line from "Kodachrome" to update my sig line.
  8. bumpy mcgee

    bumpy mcgee Well-Known Member

    As a new father, whenever I try to get my little girl to relax, I play "Daughter" and just hold her. Always seems to calm both of us.
  9. Webster

    Webster Well-Known Member

    If I remember correctly, Simon and Garfunkel had already gone their separate ways before their first song became a hit. Simon was living in England and then came back to work again with Garfunkel.

    While Artie has a lovely voice, Simon is simply a genius. The beauty is in the lyrics -- he has an ability to say so much with so few words. And musically, he wasn't afraid to step out of his comfort zone without sounding ridiculous.
  10. HC

    HC Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the link .. I had never seen that. Another thing I like about Simon - he doesn't take himself too seriously. ;)
  11. Huggy

    Huggy Well-Known Member

    I agree with my pal HC that he is one of the great American songwriters (I'd make that argument for John Fogerty - certainly based on his work with CCR too).

    "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is still, all these years after it was written, one of the greatest songs of the last 50 years. (I love the Elvis version from That's The Way It Is too.) And I still love the easy groove of "Slip Slidin' Away".
  12. Guy_Incognito

    Guy_Incognito Well-Known Member

    And yet, because of the breakup, Simon was forced to write only songs that he could sing, so his solo stuff is a lot schtickier and less melodic (as a generalization) that the S&G material, and the world missed out on some great music because of it.
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