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Paul Simon

Paul Simon is one of the most successful and respected songwriters of the second half of the 20th century. Rising to fame in the mid-'60s, Simon's songs were mature and literate, but also melodically engaging, and spoke to the concerns and uncertainties of a generation. As the 1960s gave way to the '70s and '80s, Simon's work tended to focus on the personal rather than the larger world, but he also expanded his musical palette, and helped introduce many rock and pop fans to world music.

Paul Frederic Simon was born in Newark, New Jersey on October 13, 1941. His father, Louis Simon, was an educator who also led a small jazz combo, while his mother, Belle Simon, taught English; when Paul was a few months old, they moved from Newark to Queens, New York. Paul grew up with a passion for baseball and music, particularly jazz and folk, and as he entered his teens, he developed a taste for the doo wop and R&B sounds that were a staple of Alan Freed's radio broadcasts, as well as first-generation rockabillies such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. When Simon was 11 years old, he met Art Garfunkel, and the two became fast friends who discovered they shared an interest in music. Paul and Art formed a harmony duo in the style of their heroes the Everly Brothers, and made their stage debut at a junior-high talent show. By the time they were enrolled at Forest Hills High School, the two were calling themselves Tom & Jerry (Art was Tom Graph, Paul was Jerry Landis), and they filled their spare time playing teen dances and parties. In 1955, the two wrote a song together, "The Girl for Me," which Simon registered for copyright with the Library of Congress. In 1957, Tom & Jerry were cutting a demo acetate of Simon's song "Hey Schoolgirl" when the president of a small record company (ironically named Big Records) happened by the studio. The label head liked what he heard, and "Hey Schoolgirl" b/w "Dancin' Wild" was released in the fall of 1957. The record rose to number 52 on the Billboard pop singles charts, and scored Tom & Jerry an appearance on American Bandstand, but while they would cut a number of follow-up releases, "Hey Schoolgirl" was destined to be Tom & Jerry's only hit.

By March 1958, Simon was already looking toward a solo career, cutting a single, "True or False" b/w "Teen Age Fool," under the name True Taylor. Jerry Landis also landed his own record deal, releasing his debut single, "Anna Belle" b/w "Loneliness," in 1959, while Simon also worked with a studio group called the Cosines, who specialized in cutting demos for songwriters. (Another member of the combo was Carole Klein, who would soon enjoy a successful career of her own as Carole King.) By the end of the decade, Paul and Art were both enrolled in college, and Tom & Jerry took a back seat to academics, though Simon would record occasional sessions and wrote songs for others. In 1961, Simon teamed up with a handful of vocalists to form a group called Tico & the Triumphs; the group cut a single, "Motorcycle" b/w "I Don't Believe Them," which barely broke into the Billboard singles charts, making Number 99 for one week, but received extensive airplay in Baltimore and became a local hit in the Charm City. "Motorcycle" was released by Amy Records, who soon turned to Simon to write and produce material for several of their artists, including Ritchie Cordell, the Fashions, Dottie Daniels, and Jay Walker & the Pedestrians. Simon also found time to cut another Jerry Landis single, and "The Lone Teen Ranger" spent three weeks on the Billboard charts in early 1963, peaking at number 97.

In the early '60s, the folk revival swept New York City, and a new breed of singers and songwriters introduced a new approach to the craft of creating tunes. Simon, who had been studying English literature, was influenced and encouraged by the new breed of folkies, and in 1963 he re-teamed with Art Garfunkel, this time using their real names and performing the more topical songs Simon was writing. Simon & Garfunkel started playing Greenwich Village folk clubs, and they scored a deal with Columbia Records, releasing their first album, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, in the fall of 1964. The album was initially a flop, and Simon headed to England, where he made the rounds of folk clubs, recorded some BBC sessions, and even cut a solo album, The Paul Simon Songbook, which was released only in the UK. Simon also co-wrote a few pop tunes with Bruce Woodley of the Seekers, one of which, "Red Rubber Ball," would become a big hit for the Cyrkle. In late 1965, Tom Wilson, who produced the Wednesday Morning, 3 AM album, learned that one of the songs from the LP, "The Sound of Silence," was getting scattered radio airplay, and he struck upon the idea of dubbing a rock & roll rhythm section over the acoustic track and issuing it as a single. The strategy worked: the new version of "The Sound of Silence" was a big hit, and Simon & Garfunkel quickly re-formed, cutting the album Sounds of Silence, which was released in 1966 and spawned the singles "I Am a Rock" and "Kathy's Song."

Simon & Garfunkel would enjoy impressive success over the next several years, and were one of the few acts from the early-'60s folk revival that would enjoy success with acoustic-based music during the psychedelic era, thanks in large part to Simon's songwriting. But while 1970's Bridge Over Troubled Water was a massive commercial and critical success (and a superb reflection of the end-of-the-decade Zeitgeist of the day), long-simmering creative differences between Simon and Garfunkel came to a head while making the album, and a hiatus from collaborating became a proper breakup when Simon released his self-titled solo album in 1972. Paul Simon featured two hit singles, "Mother and Child Reunion" and "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," and found Simon experimenting with reggae and Latin music, as well as polished soft rock.

Released in 1973, There Goes Rhymin' Simon was a more ambitious follow-up, sounding largely optimistic and dipping its toes into gospel and New Orleans jazz as well as R&B-based rock and pop. In 1975, Simon released Still Crazy After All These Years, an album informed by his divorce from his first wife, Peggy Harper. Still Crazy included the song "My Little Town," which reunited Simon with Art Garfunkel for the first time since Bridge Over Troubled Water. Simon's next project proved to have a long gestation period; he wrote a screenplay about a musician struggling to save his marriage and his career, and penned a set of songs to accompany it. Simon also starred in the subsequent film, and while One Trick Pony wasn't his first bit of film acting (he played a small but memorable role in Woody Allen's Annie Hall), he didn't fare well alongside a cast of seasoned professionals when the movie debuted in 1980. One Trick Pony's soundtrack album (his first album for Warner Bros. after a long working relationship with Columbia) spawned the hit single "Late in the Evening," but otherwise proved to be a disappointment in terms of sales.

In September 1981, Simon & Garfunkel played a massive reunion concert in New York's Central Park, which led to a brief reunion tour. The Central Park show was released as a live album that was a major commercial success, and the duo made plans to record a new album. But Simon and Garfunkel found themselves at odds in the studio, and Simon's next album, 1983's Hearts and Bones, featured no contributions from Garfunkel. The album sold poorly, and by Simon's own admission he was running short on inspiration when he heard an album of "township jive" by the South African group the Boyoyo Boys. Fascinated by the eclectic blend of creative elements, Simon began creating an album inspired by South African pop, recorded primarily in Johannesburg with a band of South African musicians. The result was 1986's Graceland, which became an unexpected smash hit, spawning several hits singles, introducing an international audience to South African rhythms, and prompting a renewed dialogue about the nation's repressive apartheid regime. (The album also generated a certain amount of controversy, as some believed the recording sessions violated a United Nations-led cultural boycott against South Africa; also, several members of the group Los Lobos, who appeared on the album, claimed Simon lifted their melody for the tune "All Around the World, or the Myth of Fingerprints" without giving them songwriting credit.) Simon turned to Brazilian music for inspiration on his next album, 1990's The Rhythm of the Saints, which also incorporated a number of the South African players who contributed to Graceland. If not as successful as Graceland, The Rhythm of the Saints still fared quite well with fans and critics, and the two albums reestablished Simon as a vital, contemporary artist.

After releasing a live album from the tour in support of The Rhythm of the Saints, Simon retreated to work on another unusual project, a Broadway musical called The Capeman, which was based on the true story of Salvador Agron, a Latino gang member and convicted murderer turned poet and activist. Simon wrote the book for The Capeman in collaboration with Derek Walcott, and composed a set of new songs for the show. However, the production proved difficult and the play, which opened in 1998, received poor reviews and closed after just 68 performances due to slow ticket sales. (A revised version of the show was staged in 2010, and received significantly better notices.) An album of Simon's interpretations of the show's songs was issued, but was only a modest success; the original cast recording received a belated digital release in 2006.

Stung by the disappointing response to The Capeman, Simon returned to the studio in 2000 to record You're the One, an album that suggested a compromise between the African and Latin sounds he'd embraced and the more intimate approach of his early work. Two years later, Simon once again reunited with Art Garfunkel for a concert tour, and a live album, Old Friends: Live on Stage, was released in 2004. Simon returned in 2006 with Surprise, which found him working with an unlikely producer, Brian Eno. Released in 2011, So Beautiful or So What captured Simon returning to a more organic songwriting style than he'd employed since Graceland, though the tenor of the lyrics confirmed he was still keenly aware of the sounds and ideas of the present day. The album was also his first release for Hear Music; the same label released 2012's Live in New York City, taken from a special intimate hometown concert from the tour in support of So Beautiful. ~ Mark Deming
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: The Afterlife (Radio Single)

Comments

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I loved the musical score of the Play The Capeman. ! Saw the Broadway Play on the last day of Performance. Political Correctness and Financial Big Whigs; did not like/the social connotations of strife between different cultures and the rift between Puerto Rican gang members fighting white oppression. The plot story based on a true and controversia l murder. The play was black-listed , and panned by all the critics; it never stood a chance. I Love Simon & Garfunkel music of the 60's & 70's & 80's!
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Marc Anthony is one of the best of the best to my concer in this Moment. God bless you boricua.
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mmpete49
Love all 50 60 and 70
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How do I add Judy Collins?
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great songs!!!
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I saw him today on Paladia and he is still popping!
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alabastervil l i s 0
paul simon is a baby eating hippie, i have no use to this breed of rodent. all hippies are evil and smelly.
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lpaulae
Song was before it's time.
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Why talk why not listen
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angie011974
WOW! You can call me Al! Love it. Memories! !!
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St. Judy's Comet: My daughter was born under Haley's comet in 1986 right as it was flying over Hanford.
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I am glad to hear you and any other new singers who would be following with you to sing as great as you do.
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I love Paul Simon's Slip Slidin' Away -- so slow, soulful and insightful. It's the kind of song you can listen to over and over.
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I was fortunate to attend a Fund Raising Event for Al Franken in DC 2 years ago. It was a House Concert with about 30 people and Paul answered the door with drink in hand and was one of the guys....amaz i n g experience and he sounds just as awesome now as he did years ago...a night to remember
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Music is therapy... At least for me!!!!
Good and not so good of times .... Music seems to make it even better!!!!
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Soothing, knowing, with a great rhythm
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Currently in the process of leaving a 10 year relationship -- and Paul Simon's 50 Ways to Leave your Lover has become my theme song! Fantastic for finding that needed inspiration!
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Currently in the process to leave a 10 year relationship - and Paul Simon's 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover has become my theme song. Thank you for the inspiration!
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Survival of the fittest~~~*
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and if Art Garfunkel is so great, where is his solo career?
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I could not disagree with irvd2x more
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irvd2x
The Paul Simon Songbook is all the evidence one needs to come to the conclusion that in spite of his future success and achievement, he had to ride the coattails of the power and quality of Art Garfunkels voice to position himself for that solo career.
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love this song- mother and child reunion always great to hear it
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I love this song- and chevy chase was the bomb back then
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I love you man keep on keeping on
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you can call me al one of his best song a solo artist
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You suck Simon.. Where is Garfunkel??? ? You f**k up a beautiful song. Simon and Garfunker was like bacon and eggs.
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Why can't we see the lyrics anymore?
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50 Ways To Leave Your Lover: I don't have a lover to leave, so there.
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ranger2wolf
i love Paul Simon's song that my daughter has for her father. Father and Daughter
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All Around The World. : I love the stories Paul has through his music art. Love Paul Simon's music. :-)
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At Judy's comet~~~~~**
~~~***
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Paul Simon what that song means to you
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Losing love is like a window in your heart.....ev e r y o n e sees you're blown apart.....ev e r y o n e feels the wind blow
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soniaf6
The Graduate!
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kodachrome kicks a**!
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Go Gators!
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I am going to Grace Land!
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You Can Call Me Al: I LOVE THIS SONG RIGHT HERE.. Great logic, great lyrics, great music. Don't take life so seriously. Life can be very funny when you look at it from my point of view.
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50 Ways to Leave Your Lover: I love Paul Simon's music.
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Ya just dont
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Love me like a rock
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Why would u leave poor Garunkel u
suck man
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Proof: Awesome, awesome music art. I love it. :-)
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yea
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paul simon is a BEAST!
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The Obvious Child: I love Paul Simon's music.
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kirkhel
The beginning of his song American Tune on There Goes Rhymin' Simon sounds very close to the Oh Sacred Heart, now Wounded song by Amy Grant! Lovely Song.
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I just discovered George Ezra. So much soul in his giving. Yes. I realize that he is giving.

Jet Lassen
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bretlynes
Good music!
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