I saw this article in the Wall Street Journal on line about Paul Simon. He has a new album out and has started a new tour. Paul Simon is my all time favorite singer, musician, songwriter. I love his stuff. The article makes the point that Simon is overlooked by twenty somethings and even thirty somethings while Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are idolized. The comments attached to the article are interesting. There are a lot of commenters who are big fans of Paul Simon but there are others who say he too commercial, too popular. Others say he is too deep, too cerebral, too thoughtful. They talk about navel gazing.
I’ve always thought that his music (including the Simon and Garfunkel stuff) is a perfect combination of catchy, inventive music and orchestrations and deep thoughtful relevant lyrics. I used to watch American Idol hoping someone would do something Simon but when the rare performance would come alone it would be a bust because you can’t do one or two verses of a Paul Simon song. His songs are philosophy. They are spirituality. They are literature. Maybe that’s why I like his stuff. Paul Simon is a story teller.
I can’t say I have a number one favorite but Graceland comes close. It tells the story of a man and his son traveling to Graceland, the famous home of Elvis in Memphis, Tennessee. On the road he begins to reflect on his failed marriage and what to do about that. It becomes clear that the Graceland he seeks is not the mansion. It’s grace is seeks, absolution from past sins, from failures, from regrets. ‘I have reason to believe we will be received at Graceland’. I don’t agree with the conclusion he comes to (‘we all be received’) but I recognize the need. We all recognize the need.
I have always thought that Paul Simon is one of those people who is almost a Christian, just a few degrees away from the truth. His latest album ‘So Beautiful or So What‘ is full of questions. It sounds like someone late in life, wondering about what’s next, what’s on the other side, wondering if he’s made the right choices. I hope he finds the answers.