Singer/songwriter Paul Simon turned 70 this week. For nearly three decades he was a major force in American popular music. Success did not come easily to Paul Simon. The truth is that he labored in relative obscurity for nearly a decade honing his considerable skills. Paul teamed up early on with childhood friend Art Garfunkel and while recording as Tom & Jerry the duo had a minor national hit called "Hey, Schoolgirl" in 1957. But it would not be until the autumn of 1965 that the pair now known as Simon & Garfunkel would hit the big time. The boys' debut single on Columbia "The Sound of Silence", written by Paul Simon, rocketed to the top of the Billboard charts. Both the critics and the public loved them and quickly recognized that this was a very special act indeed. Now Paul Simon was well on his way and over the next quarter century he would prove to be a major influence on the American music scene.
While I would charactorize his vocal skills as rather pedestrian his considerable body of work proves that he is an extraordinary songwriter. Take a look at the hits he wrote for Simon & Garfunkel during their remarkable run in the 1960's. Tunes like the aforementioned "The Sound of Silence", "Homeward Bound", "Mrs. Robinson", "I Am A Rock" and my personal favorite "Bridge Over Troubled Water" were staples of Top 40 radio in those days. In addition, Simon & Garfunkel would release a series of highly successful albums during this period and most of the songs were penned by Paul Simon. Sadly, the relationship between Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel fractured badly around 1970 and the duo split up in 1971.
Bouyed by the success of Simon & Garfunkel Paul Simon decided to pursue a solo career. He now had the confidence and gravitas in the business to write his own ticket. He signed a new deal with his old label and guess what.....the hits just kept on comin'! Right out of the shoot "Mother and Child Reunion" became his first Top Ten single. Furthermore, his self-titled debut album was also a smash. Paul would record two more critically-acclaimed albums over the next couple of years. In fact, "Still Crazy After All These Years" won the Grammy Award for "Album of the Year" in 1975.
In 1979 Paul Simon left his familiar surroundings at Columbia and signed a new deal with Warner Brothers records. The release of the album "One-Trick Pony" in 1980 marked the beginning of what many consider to be the most creative period of his distinguished career. Shortly after the moderately successful album "Hearts and Bones" in 1983 Paul Simon would embark on an ambitious project of South African-flavored tunes that he would write himself. The result was the the wildly successful 1986 album "Graceland" which found Simon backed by a South African ensemble. "Graceland" snared the Grammy as "Album of the Year" in 1986 and this many insist that the release of this disc helped to spur the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Simon would repeat the success of "Graceland" four years later with the release of "The Rhythm of the Saints". This time out Paul Simon incorporates the rhythmic sounds native to South America. In fact, parts of the album were recorded in Rio de Janeiro. His latest album "So Beautiful or So What" was released just his past April.
So there you have it. Paul Simon has pretty much done it all. He continues to perform on a regular basis and a new two-disc, 32 song retrospective called "Songwriter" is slated for release later this month. Over the years Paul Simon has earned a total of 13 Grammy Awards including the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and in 2006 was named by Time magazine as one of the "100 People Who Shaped The World". in his 1968 song with Simon & Garfunkel "Old Friends" Paul Simon wrote of two aging friends "sharing a park bench quietly". He went on to observe "how terribly strange to be 70". It would appear that Paul Simon remains as engaged and vibrant today as he was when he wrote that tune some 45 years ago. We should all be so fortunate. His is a life well-lived. Very highly recommended!
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Paul Tognetti (drifter51)
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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In a career dating back to the 1950s, Paul Simon established himself among the best and most popular songwriters of the rock era. Growing up in Queens, NY, Simon befriended schoolmate Art Garfunkel, who had an angelic tenor voice, and the two teamed up as Tom & Jerry, taking the names of the cartoon characters. In the winter of 1957-1958, they scored a chart hit with "Hey Schoolgirl"; both were 16 years old.
Simon continued to try to score hits in the late '50s and early '60s, reaching the charts briefly in 1962 in the group Tico & the Triumphs with "Motorcycle" and under the name Jerry Landis in 1963 with "The Lone Teen Ranger." He and Garfunkel teamed up again as a folk duo in Greenwich Village, signed to Columbia Records, and released Wednesday Morning, 3 AM (October 1964). The album flopped initially, but Simon, who had been spending a lot of time in England, was picked up as a solo artist by CBS and recorded The Paul Simon Songbook, released only in Great Britain in the spring of 1965.
In the wake of the folk-rock trend prevalent that year, producer Tom Wilson took the acoustic track "The Sound of Silence" from the Wednesday Morning album, overdubbed electric guitar, bass, and drums and released the result as a single in October 1965, a full year after the album's release. It took off and hit number one, establishing Simon & Garfunkel.
For the next five years, they were one of the most successful acts in ...