Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Paul Simon, The #79 Artist of the Rock Era

"Our generation benefited so from this great artist."

"He is a ridiculously gifted lyricist, and a great vocalist. The combination is amazing."

"A Master in our day. His poetry is from another world."

"Mr Simon..... there is no one who so clearly and correctly captures the feelings and thoughts of so many people."

"Paul Simon, maybe the greatest lyricist of all time!"

"His music has been an inspiration for our lifetimes."

"So profound, deep, philosophical, Paul's and is transcendent and his lyrics will be taught in Englist Literature classes in 6016."

"Paul is a veritable gold mine of profound philosophical thinking and of life's vagaries."

"His music is carved on the billboards of everybody's mind."

"Paul Simon songs have dealt with relevant social issues for 40 + years in calming, harmonic melodies that are timeless and uplifting."




This genius was born October 13, 1941 in Newark, New Jersey.  He moved with his family to Queens, New York in 1945 and became interested in music and baseball.  He met Art Garfunkel when he was 11; they both performed in a school production of Alice in Wonderland and began singing together two years later.

Paul wrote his first song called "The Girl For Me", which he later copyrighted and is now in the U.S. Library of Congress.  A few years later, Simon & Garfunkel recorded "Hey, Schoolgirl" as Tom & Jerry, a #49 song.

Simon graduated from Forest Hills High School and earned an English literature degree at Queens College.  He briefly went to Brooklyn Law School but his love of music soon led him to pursue a career in Rock & Roll instead.  After writing nearly 30 songs, Paul's songwriting ability impressed the brass at Columbia Records and Simon & Garfunkel signed a recording contract in 1964.

With Garfunkel, Paul Simon enjoyed great success as a duo from 1964-1970, achieving three of The Top 15 Songs of the Rock Era* in "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "The Sound Of Silence" and "Mrs. Robinson", scoring eight Top 10 hits and winning 14 Grammy Awards.  The duo broke up in 1970 at the height of their popularity, and Simon began a solo career.

Simon released his debut album in January 1972, which was widely praised by critics for the variety of styles on the project.  This included Paul's Jamaican-inspired "Mother And Child Reunion", #3 in Norway, #4 in the United States and Canada, #5 in the U.K. and Australia and #6 in the Netherlands.  It has gone over two million in radio airplays.

"Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard" continued the momentum, reaching #6 on the Easy Listening chart although it's peak of #22 on the Popular chart easily makes it one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

The album sold over one million copies and reached #1 in the U.K. Finland, Norway and Sweden and #4 in the United States.  "Duncan" is another great track on the album.

Simon followed that album up with There Goes Rhymin' Simon, another Platinum album released in 1973.  The first single, "Kodachrome", became one of his biggest solo hits, soaring to #1 in Canada, #2 in the U.S. and #8 in France.  The song has now gone over three million in radio airplays.

"Loves Me Like A Rock", with the Dixie Hummingbirds on backing vocals, quickly becoming Simon's third solo Top 10, reaching #2 in the United States and #5 in Canada.

The song has topped the three-million mark in radio airplay.  "American Tune" is another highlight of the album.

"Something So Right" was nominated for Best Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards.

Written in the wake of his divorce, the album Still Crazy After All These Years, one of Paul's finest works.  "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" topped charts in the U.S. and Canada and hit #2 in France.

Simon won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and a BMI Pop Award for two million radio airplays for "50 Ways".  The album, which went Gold, also highlights the memorable title song.  It features more amazing Simon lyrics but with a peak of #40, is another highly underrated song, as evidenced by the fact that it has exceeded one million radio airplays.  

The song "Gone At Last" received a BMI Pop Award.  Paul organized a benefit concert at Madison Square Garden to raise money for the New York Public Library, and over $30,000 was raised.

Simon wrote music for the movie Shampoo and starred in the movie Annie Hall.  In 1977, he released the compilation Greatest Hits, Etc., and from that album, the new song "Slip Slidin' Away" became a huge hit, going to #4 on the Adult Contemporary chart and #5 overall in the U.S. and #2 in Canada.

The classic song has topped two million in radio airplay.  Meanwhile, Simon joined with James Taylor and Garfunkel on Art's 1978 album Watermark.  The remake of "Wonderful World" became a huge Adult Contemporary hit that peaked at #17 overall.

In 1980, Simon switched to Warner Brothers Records and released the album One-Trick Pony, his first in nearly five years.  Simon also wrote and starred in the movie of the same name.  The single "Late In The Evening" reached #6 and has exceeded one million radio airplays.  

Simon was nominated for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special at the Grammy Awards.  He released the album Hearts and Bones, which failed to sell at the time but since has gained in stature.  A highlight of the album is "The Late Great Johnny Ace", partially written about R&B singer Johnny Ace and partly about John Lennon, who had died just prior to Simon recording it.  

As part of the creme de la creme of songwriters in music history, Paul was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1982.

In 1985, Simon was one of the voices behind the great #1 song "We Are The World".

But Simon was disappointed with the commercial failure of Hearts and Bones and felt the chances of returning to hit songs were small.  One day in 1984, Simon listened to a cassette of the instrumental Gumboots:  Accordion Jive Volume II by the Boyoyo Boys, a South African group.  Paul was intrigued by the unusual sound and wrote lyrics to the song.

Buoyed by what he had just written, Simon traveled to South Africa to further explore the music and culture that would comprise his next album.  He collaborated with some of the top South African musicians and groups and began recording in Johannesburg in February of 1985.

The result was the landmark album Graceland, although Warner Brothers didn't know if such an eclectic album would find much footing in the mainstream.  Nevertheless, the album was released in 1986 and became the highlight of Simon's solo career.  

"You Can Call Me Al" reached #2 in Australia, #4 in the U.K. and #5 in the Netherlands.  Simon received a BMI Award when the song exceeded radio airplay of two million.  The accompanying music video starred comedian Chevy Chase, which gave Simon important exposure to a new generation of music fans on MTV.

Graceland reached #1 in many countries, including the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and peaked at #3 in the U.S.  The title song was highly underrated at #81.

The album sold over five million copies in the United States and over 16 million worldwide and was the second-best-selling album of 1987.  Those facts seem to mock Billboard's peak of #86 for  the incredible song "The Boy In The Bubble", which feature some of the best lyrics of Simon's career.

Although the album represented experimentation into new music, Graceland put Paul back in the spotlight.  He captured Grammy Awards for Album of the Year and Record of the Year (for "Graceland") and an American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Album.  "Homeless" is another solid track.

Simon was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from the Berklee College of Music.  Another noteworthy song on the album is "Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes".
The compilation Negotiations and Love Songs, which contained hits as well as Paul's personal favorites, became a big-seller.

Simon continued to explore with the Brazilian-flavored album The Rhythm of the Saints, released in 1990.  The album went to #1 in the U.K. and #4 in the United States and was certified Double Platinum.  Simon was nominated for another Grammy Award for Album of the Year.


Paul's ex wife Carrie Fisher states in her autobiography Wishful Drinking that the song "She Moves On" is about her.  Fisher writes "If you can get Paul Simon to write a song about you, do it.  Because he is so brilliant at it."
Simon, who had reunited with Garfunkel for a legendary free concert at Central Park in Manhattan, New York, performed in 1991 with African and South American bands.  The show drew over 750,000 people, one of the largest concert audiences in history.  The success of the concert led to a live album and an Emmy Award-winning television special.

Simon & Garfunkel reunited again in 1993 and Simon released the box set Paul Simon 1964/1993.  Meanwhile, Paul worked on The Capeman, a musical that he finally finished later in the decade for it to open on January 29, 1998.  Despite his great amount of work, the show closed after just 68 performances.  Simon recorded an album of songs from the show, but it too failed, as Paul fell short of the Top 40 for the first time in his career.

Paul received the Johnny Mercer Award on June 10, 1998 from the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  Simon joined Bob Dylan in a co-headlining tour of North America that allowed fans to see two legends in the same show.
In 2000, Simon released the album You're the One, nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards.  Simon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and was named as MusiCares Person of the Year.  On September 21, 2002, Simon sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water" for the broadcast "America:  A Tribute to Heroes", in the wake of the September 11 mass murders.

In 2002, Paul recorded "Father And Daughter" for the animated The Wild Thornberrys Movie, nominated for Best Song at the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards, then once again reunited with Garfunkel for another tour.  Simon was recognized at the Kennedy Center Honors, the nation's highest tribute to performing and cultural artists.  




The following year, Simon's studio albums were released as the nine-CD boxed set Paul Simon:  The Studio Recordings 1972-2000.  In 2005, Simon was named a BMI Icon at their annual Pop Awards.

Simon released the album Surprise in 2006.

Simon was named as one of the "100 People Who Shaped the World" by Time magazine in 2006.  In 2007, Paul became the first honoree of the recently created Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

In 2010, Simon received an honorary degree from Brandeis University.
In 2011, he released the album So Beautiful or So What and toured the U.S., England, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.  On September 11 of 2011, Paul performed "The Sound Of Silence" at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 murders.

In 2012, Paul was awarded the Polar Music Prize.  He won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Sound Mixing for Nonfiction Programming for the documentary Graceland Journey:  Under African Skies.  In 2014, Simon toured with Sting for concerts in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.  The next year, Paul performed with Billy Joel at the final concert of Nassau Coliseum.




In 2016, Simon released the album Stranger to Stranger, #1 in the U.K. and #3 in the United States.

Paul co-founded The Children's Health Fund with Dr. Irwin Redlener, which brings health care to the poor throughout the United States.  In the 20 years since the fund was founded, it has provided over 1.2 million doctor/patient visits.  The Children's Health Fund was the primary health care source for the communities affected by Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina.  

Paul has also raised millions of dollars for AMFAR, THe Nature Conservance, The Fund for Imprisoned Children in South Africa and Autism Speaks.  Paul received the Frederick D. Patterson Award from the United Negro College Fund in 1989 for efforts made by Simon on their behalf.

Simon's music has received over 75 million airplays as of 2005, according to Broadcast Music, Incorporated.  Paul is widely regarded as one of the best lyricists of all-time, and in an interview reprinted in American Songwriter, Simon discussed his songwriting process:


"The music always precedes the words. The words often come from the sound of the music and eventually evolve into coherent thoughts. Or incoherent thoughts. Rhythm plays a crucial part in the lyric-making as well. It's like a puzzle to find the right words to express what the music is saying." 

Simon has scored 19 solo hits, including six Top 10's and one #1 song.  He has won 13 Grammys for his solo career and work with Garfunkel, including a Lifetime Achievement Award.  Simon's album Still Crazy After All These Years was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003 and his classic Graceland album was inducted in 2012.  A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee for both his solo career and his work with Garfunkel, Paul has won 39 BMI Pop Awards, two Emmy Awards and been nominated for an award at the Academy and Golden Globe Awards.  

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