Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



Singer, songwriter, guitarist; half of Simon and Garfunkel (see below), but his solo career began before that. He worked with Carole King '58, had minor hits as Tico and the Triumphs ('Motorcycle' '62), as Jerry Landis ('The Lone Teen Ranger' '63); his debut solo LP The Paul Simon Song Book '65 was made in London and preceded success of Simon and Garfunkel by a matter of months, and formed the basis of their repertoire for some time, with such standards as 'The Sound Of Silence', 'I Am A Rock', 'Kathy's Song'. He enjoyed attention as a fledgling folksinger type in UK (produced an LP by Jackson C. Frank '65) when a 'folk-rock' studio job on the duo version of 'Silence' brought international stardom.

When they split he took songwriting classes in NYC and poured his energy into Paul Simon '72, a diverse collection from reggae ('Mother And Child Reunion') to jazz ('Hobo's Blues' with Stephane Grappelli) and Latin ('Me And Julio'). Notable for narrative flair and further South American influence was 'Duncan'. There Goes Rhymin' Simon '73 was more straightforward, 'Kodachrome' and 'Take Me To The Mardi Gras' being hit singles, 'American Tune' lushly produced with beautiful singing, haunting lyric. 'Was A Sunny Day' included the Roches, while 'St Judy's Comet' was a lullaby. He produced an LP by Urubamba '73; his Live Rhymin' '74 included remakes of Simon & Garfunkel hits (with an extra verse in 'The Boxer', gospel-flavoured 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'), as well as his own new material; Still Crazy After All These Years '75 included deft '50 Ways To Leave Your Lover' and a reunion with Garfunkel on 'My Little Town'; it won a Grammy as album of the year and was his last for five years. He worked on the soundtrack of the film Shampoo '75, did a cameo in Woody Allen's Annie Hall '77, joined Garfunkel and James Taylor in USA top 20 hit cover of Sam Cooke's 'Wonderful World' '78; Greatest Hits Etc '77 included otherwise unavailable singles 'Slip Slidin' Away', 'Stranded In A Limousine'.

One Trick Pony '80 was the soundtrack of an ambitious film depicting the decline of a once-famous rock star (played by Simon) obsessed with Elvis Presley; it matched his scrupulous standard, but disappointed by the film's reception (panned, perhaps unfairly) he spent three years on Hearts And Bones '83 (switching from Columbia to WB amid lawsuits): it was intended to be a studio reunion with Garfunkel following their two-disc live set from Central Park '82, but the latter's contributions were scrapped: 'The Late Great Johnny Ace', orchestrated by Philip Glass, was a tribute to both Johnny Ace and John Lennon; also notable were the title track and the wistful 'Train In The Distance'. He duetted with Randy Newman on single 'The Blues' '83, appeared on USA for Africa's 'We Are The World' '85, Glass album Songs For Liquid Days '86.

Then Graceland '86 was an album of the decade, full of beauty and joy and haunting lyrics, one track each featuring Rockin' Dopsie and Los Lobos, the rest with Africans, including Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour, South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, many others; hit singles included 'You Can Call Me Al' (pennywhistle solo by Morris Goldberg, a white South African living in NYC), 'Boy In The Bubble'; the title track was successfully pan-cultural between Africa and US country music, with a guitar solo by Ray Phiri (Raymond Chikapa Enock 'Just Now' Phiri [b 23 March 1947, d 12 July 2017] was a prominent anti-apartheid South African musician, founder of the Cannibals in the 1970s. He did more recording and touring with Simon.) Some tracks were made in South Africa; single-issue fanatics attacked him for offending a United Nations resolution, as though the UN could/should embargo music, but Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba, themselves exiled from their own country, toured with him '87; anyway Simon had already described critics and others in 'You Can Call Me Al', itself about mistaken identity: 'A man walks down the street/It's a street in a strange world/Maybe it's the Third World/Maybe it's his first time around/He doesn't speak the language...'

The Rhythm Of The Saints '90 celebrated South American rhythms, partly recorded in Rio, scarcely less successful than Graceland; Paul Simon's Concert In The Park '91 was recorded in Central Park. A 3-CD Simon and Garfunkel compilation included 58 songs, virtually all Paul's; Collected Works was a five-disc compilation on Columbia; Negotiations And Love Songs 1971-86 was a compilation on WB, followed by three-CD set 1964-1993. A collaboration with Nobel Prize-winning West Indian poet Derek Walcott on musical show The Capeman flopped on Broadway early '98, based on a true story about a Puerto Rican murderer in NYC '59; album Song Of The Capeman '97 was not a cast album but introduced the material, a calculated departure for Simon, writing about somebody else for a change.