Paul Simon turned 76 this past Friday. Simon has taken his place in the roster of songwriters in the pantheon of the Cosmic American Music. I’ve been a fan for a long time.
Simon of course made up one-half of Simon & Garfunkel, the duo that became famous overnight when producer Tom Wilson grafted electric guitar, bass and drums onto “The Sound of Silence” and rereleased it as a single. This is what it sounded like on their first album, which had gone roughly nowhere. This is also close to what it sounded like the first time I saw them perform live, in the auditorium of Dayton’s in downtown Minneapolis in August 1966.
“Something So Right” is a love song at the crowded summit of Simon’s art. It’s a classic deep in the American grain.
In the video below, Simon is joined by Stevie Wonder and the Dixie Hummingbirds for a moving rendition of Simon’s gospel rave-up, “Loves Me Like A Rock.” Pretty impressive for a Jewish kid from Queens. The clip is from the 2007 concert given in honour of Simon’s selection as the first recipient of The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The prize was given to Simon during an all-star gala concert on May 23 of that year at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C.
“Father and Daughter” is a latter-day song that is close to my heart. You can hear the lilting world-music touch he brings to bear on a personal statement: “There could never be a father loved his daughter more than I love you.”
I last saw Simon & Garfunkel perform at St. Paul’s Xcel Center when they came through town in 2003 on one of those reunion tours for love or money. They brought out the Everly Brothers for a brief appearance to pay tribute to their roots. I memorialized the set list and reflected on what it was all about in “The deep meaning of Simon and Garfunkel.” One of the highlights of the show that night was their performance of “Scarborough Fair.” The video below gives the breathtaking 1966 original that Mike Nichols used on the soundtrack of The Graduate.
As Simon and Garfunkel studied up on the records of the Everly Brothers, duos since have studied up on Simon and Garfunkel. Jonatha Brooke and Jennifer Kimball certainly did when they teamed up as classmates at Amherst College. Jonatha contributed the Paul Simon tribute to the excellent out-of-print compilation Bleecker Street: Greenwich Village in the 60’s. She led off the compilation with a knockout version of Simon’s “Bleecker Street” (below), a song lifted from the first Simon & Garfunkel album. It’s a young man’s song; Simon was still finding his voice and perfecting his craft. “It’s a long road to Canaan on Bleecker Street…” A long road, indeed.