Now Paul Simon is embarking on a joint headlining tour with Sting in February and March 2014. His former duet partner, Art Garfunkel, is traveling on the theater circuit. This makes it an opportune time to honor the music of Paul Simon, along with Simon & Garfunkel’s stellar harmonies. Here are 10 of the greatest compositions written and sung by the one and only, Paul Simon.
For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her (1966)
Even though Paul does not sing lead he wrote this beautiful love ballad. You can hear his fine acoustic guitar playing throughout that is worth noting. Rolling Stone magazine recently conducted a reader’s poll on Facebook and Twitter. They wanted fans to comment on their one favorite song by Simon & Garfunkel. This track from the album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” ranked at number 10 on their listing. “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” may not be as well-known as Simon’s other greatest hits. Once you hear it you’ll fall in love with this song.
This stellar album and its title track received critical acclaim and a Grammy for Album of the Year at the 29th Grammy Awards. In the following year it won Record of the Year. The “Graceland” album is his biggest seller to date with over 15 million copies. It takes its name from Elvis Presley’s mansion in Memphis, Tennessee. The name Graceland also reminded Simon of Sun Studios where Elvis first recorded. In 1985 he went to South Africa to record with some local musicians. The African beat of his song from those drums gave it a country flavor, much like a train in motion rhythm. Many of Johnny Cash’s songs have that particular style Simon was going for.
You Can Call Me Al (1986 )
Here’s the first single release off the “Graceland” album. “You Can Call Me Al” is a lighter, funnier tune, especially its amusing music video. In reality, it was recorded in South Africa during Apartheid, a policy that separated blacks and whites. Simon defied their boycott with good intentions, because his album eventually brought the music of South Africa to the world. Paul has stated “the story of somebody like me, who goes to Africa with no idea and ends up having an extraordinary spiritual experience.”
How fitting this song is reminiscent of a bygone technology, Kodak film. This catchy, up-tempo song will have you tapping your toes in no time. “Kodachrome” was recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama. What makes that recording studio so notable is the extraordinary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, the home-based studio musicians. One should see the documentary film about this out-of-the-way studio simply titled “Muscle Shoals.”
It’s the typical song about a guy whose girlfriend breaks up with him. In Catholicism the patron saint of music is named Cecilia. Paul stated he didn’t remember the inspiration for his song “Cecilia,” but knew she is the goddess of music.
The Boxer (1970)
In counteracting all the critics being harsh about his music, “The Boxer” is a metaphor on his emotional state. He was being beaten down, yet standing up and fighting like a boxer.
I Am a Rock (1966)
Simon enjoyed using the word “rock” in this and his other songs, e.g. “Love Me Like a Rock.” In “I Am a Rock” it has nothing to do with rock music. The song is about being away from everyone and everything without being desperate.
Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard (1972)
Once again, another of Simon’s catchier tunes making you want to sing along. It’s basically a made up story of a typical New York City kid in an urban neighborhood. At the time of its release, Spanish-speaking listeners were thrilled a mainstream pop song like “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” features a Latin name in its title.
Homeward Bound (1966)
While waiting for a train at Widnes Railway Station in nearby Manchester, England, Paul Simon took out a pen and paper to write this song. The lyrics in “Homeward Bound” clearly put you right in that place. There’s now a plaque at the train station commemorating the event.
The Sound of Silence (1966)
It was written after the Kennedy assassination and eloquently captures how the nation felt after this tragedy. The song is both somber and sentimental without being overly dramatic or depressing. “The Sound of Silence” is heard more than once in the counterculture film “The Graduate,” featuring other Simon and Garfunkel tunes. This is their biggest hit reaching number one for the duo on the Billboard Hot 100.