Paul Simon Turns 80: “Let Me Just Get On With It”

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• At the age of 80, Paul Simon can now relax and review his musical life.
• In any case, Paul Simon has devoted himself more and more to his family in recent years.
• The songwriter legend is far from thinking about quitting.

To be a legend, Paul Simon once explained in an interview with the music magazine “Uncut”, really means nothing more than to be old. Is one of the greatest songwriters of all time making fun of himself here? Has the Simon & Garfunkel star remained modest despite all the successes? Or is it perhaps even suggesting the slight bitterness of old age?

Well, at least the latter cannot be assumed. Paul Simon, who celebrates his 80th birthday on October 13th, can now look back on his career in a relaxed manner – despite all the ups and downs he has experienced.

One can confidently assume that Paul Frederic Simon, who was born on October 13, 1941 in Newark, New Jersey, sees musical matters with a certain serenity. His last album with new songs “Stranger To Stranger” was released in 2016, two years later he published the collection “In The Blue Light”, on which he presented newly arranged versions of less well-known songs from his repertoire. He takes his time – always: A productive and fast worker, Simon admitted at the beginning of his solo career in the early 1970s, he was not.

Paul Simon: Now a family man

In any case, Paul Simon has devoted himself more to his family in recent years: Together with his third wife, the songwriter Edie Brickell, Paul Simon has three children. In 2011 he said in an interview that he drives his children to class every day and also picks them up again.

With reference to his family, which he would miss on long concert tours, Simon also announced his departure from major tours in 2018. There are still isolated appearances, however, at the big “We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert” in August 2021, only a storm prevented Simon’s appearance in front of 60,000 people in New York’s Central Park.

No one should have been surprised that he was not on stage with his long-term partner where Simon & Garfunkel played a legendary concert in 1981. Even if the duo performed together again and again after its dissolution in 1970 and, despite all the disputes, kept getting closer, the rifts are now deep. Garfunkel was once more angry in an interview in 2015 that he could not understand why Simon ended the collaboration and described him as an “idiot”. Simon, in turn, ruled out another reunion in 2016: “We just don’t get along, it’s just not fun,” he explained.

From folk to pop duo

Both have known each other since early childhood, went to the same school, played there together in a performance of “Alice In Wonderland”. Simon wrote his first songs on the guitar at the age of twelve, and Garfunkel was a talented singer even then.

But even then the “strong competition” was beginning to show, which would later determine the musical partnership: “My first memory of him goes back to fourth grade,” said Simon in an interview in 1984: “Back then he was singing in the auditorium, and all the girls talked about him. And then I decided to try singing too. ”Soon afterwards, the two of them recorded their first songs under the name Tom & Jerry. In 1957 the 16-year-olds even had a hit: “Hey, Schoolgirl”, which was heavily influenced by the Everly Brothers, reached number 49 on the pop charts.

The big breakthrough was still a long time coming. It wasn’t until 1964 that the two signed their first record deal, the first album “Wednesday Morning 3 A.M.” initially flopped. Only the subsequently revised version – with electric guitar, bass and drums – of “Sound Of Silence” reached number one in the charts a year later. What followed were hits like “I Am A Rock” and “Homeward Bound”, the soundtrack to “The Graduate” (including “Mrs. Robinson”) and, in 1970, a flawless masterpiece: “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

Solo career with ups and downs

It should be their last work together. Even during the recording there were tensions, which were mainly of a musical nature due to the distribution of roles and the constant comparisons – Simon as the main songwriter, Garfunkel “only” the singer. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1972, he summed up the conflict in an extremely shortened way: “Artie’s taste tends to be sweet. (…) Sweet, big, lush. (…) That is not the way I want to go. ”

Away from sweet folk songs and towards the rhythms and sounds of the world: During his solo career, Simon’s musical path led to Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Brazil – and of course to South Africa, where Simon and local musicians played his classic “Graceland” (1986 ) recorded.

But Simon was also not immune to setbacks: “One-Trick Pony” (1980), a film for the album of the same name, on which he co-wrote and in which he appeared himself, but also the musical “The Capeman”, in which he was in for years had worked in the 90s, failed grandly. The latter even described the “New York Post” as “the biggest Broadway flop of all time”. In addition, at times self-doubt, writer’s block and depression, two failed marriages with childhood sweetheart Peggy Harper and later actress Carrie Fisher.

He has now been married for almost 30 years and is a “happy person”, as he explained in an interview with “Spiegel” in 2011. Even if his age does not leave him unaffected: “Of course I think about the fact that I might probably die in the not too distant future, and that is not a feeling that makes you jump up and down in joy. On the other hand, my mother turned 97! ”The fact that he takes his age with humor also shows that Paul Simon doesn’t really feel uncomfortable in the role of the living legend. But the songwriter is far from ready to retreat. Because – in all modesty – he is now an artist: “I write songs and try to make them sound as interesting as possible. So: let me just go on with it! ”

Let Me Just Get On With ItPaul Simon
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