‘Why am I so soft in the middle when the rest of my life is so hard?”
— Paul Simon
Paul Frederic Simon was born in Newark, New Jersey, USA on this day in 1941. He is 71 years old.He grew up in Queens, New York loving baseball and music. Simon met Art Garfunkel in middle school. They were the White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat in their 6th grade production of Alice and Wonderland and attended Forest Hills High School together. He and Garfunkel would use a tape recorder to practice singing together. In 1954 Paul got a guitar for his birthday. They tried to duplicate the tight harmonies of the Everly Brothers, who they idolized. In 1956 Simon wrote their first song “The Girl for Me” which his father, Louis (who was musician and college professor) wrote out and corded for the duo.
While juniors in high school they started the group Tom and Jerry. (Art was Tom; Paul was Jerry) They released a single, Hey, Schoolgirl. The song reached #49 on the Billboard charts.
After high school Simon went to Queen’s College, New York and studied English. He met singer songwriter Carol King at Queen’s and he did solo work and played with a group called Tico & The Triumphs. Although Tico et al put out a few singles the efforts weren’t very successful.Simon continued to write after graduation. He embraced the changing social climate of the early Sixties and “the burgeoning Greenwich Village folk scene.” [ Paul-Simon.info] His maturing style is reflected in the songs he wrote during this era, especially the Sound of Silence.
´Sound of Silence´ uses imagery of light and darkness to show how ignorance and apathy destroy people´s ability to communicate on even a simple level. The light symbolizes truth and enlightenment. Both music and lyrics are perfectly fitting. [Paul-Simon.info]
Simon reunited with Art Garfunkel in 1963. They began to sing in folk clubs, worked on songs and recorded a few of the songs Simon had earlier penned.
Here is He Was My Brother a song that Paul dedicated to Andrew Goodman, one of three civil rights workers killed in Mississippi in 1964.
They released Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. as Simon and Garfunkel. A classic now, the album met with tepid response when it first came out. The songs are a mix of original Simon compositions; Bleecker Street, Sparrow, The Sound of Silence, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.; traditional tunes the duo arranged to best fit their voices; and covers. Sound of Silence hit #1 and gave Simon and Garfunkel their first gold record.
Simon moved to England and Garfunkel went back to school. Paul worked with the Australian band The Seekers and did some solo recording.
Back in the US Simon and Garfunkel released Sounds of Silence; Parsley, Sage, rosemary and Thyme, Bookends, and Bridge Over Troubled Water. They also contributed heavily to the soundtrack for the movie Mrs. Robinson.
The duo won GRAMMYs in 1969 and 1971 (plus a GRAMMY: Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003) and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
They split in 1970, again. Simon put out a self title album that was more World Beat inspired. The album featured Mother and Child Reunion and Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.
There Goes Rhymin’ Simon came out in 1973 and had the hits Kodachrome and Loves Me Like a Rock.
In 1975 he put out Still Crazy After All These Years with the hits My Little Town and 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. Simon picked up another Grammy for the album.
He switched record labels to Warner Brothers for One-Trick Pony. He starred in a movie of the same name. His next album was Hearts and Bones. That album was written around the famous 1981 Central Park reunion concert for Simon and Garfunkel and Art’s influence can be heard on several songs.
When Simon worked on the We Are the World single to raise money for USA for Africa his interest in world music was rekindled. His Graceland album — which celebrated its 25th anniversary on June 5th — was a
“…melding of South African styles and Simon’s trademark sensibility made for one of the most intriguing albums–not to mention commercial hits–of the ’80s. At once lively, thoughtful, gorgeous, and tough, Graceland acknowledges splits both in South Africa’s social fabric and in Simon’s personal life … Humor is hardly absent from the mix, though; witness the addled “I Know What I Know” and the fable-like “You Can Call Me Al.”[ –Rickey Wright. Amazon.com]
Rhythm of the Saints was recorded in Rio de Janeiro and New York in 1989. This album featured a latin beat, and Simon was quick to point out that the World Sound label was nothing new for his songs. He’d been writing with an international flavor since Julio after all.
Simon lent his talents to the 1998 musical play The Capeman. Although most critics liked his songs, and the production was nominated for several Tony’s the critics panned the effort and it lost millions.
In 2000 he produce a more conventional pop album You’re the One.
He continues to tour — often with other folk and rock icons, and occasionally with Garfunkel. In 2010 he put out So Beautiful or So What.