A big birth­day, a new al­bum – and still a class act af­ter all these years

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - FILM - CHRIS BOND

BACK in the late 80s when I prob­a­bly should have been lis­ten­ing to the likes of U2 and the Happy Mon­days and lament­ing The Smiths’ demise, like any other self-re­spect­ing teenager, it was mu­sic from two decades ear­lier – The Bea­tles, Dy­lan, Hen­drix and the Stones – that en­thralled me. But of all the le­gendary per­form­ers from that heady pe­riod there was one I lis­tened to more than any other – Paul Si­mon. His gig at Glas­gow’s SECC in 1991 (I still have the ticket) was the first I ever went to and the mem­o­ries of it are em­bla­zoned in my mem­ory.

The best of his songs are a per­fect mar­riage of har­mony, melody and lyri­cism that top trump any­thing any­one else has done, even Len­non and Mc­Cart­ney, and yes­ter­day the man who penned such clas­sics as Bridge Over Trou­bled Water, Mrs Robin­son and The Boxer turned 70.

Like Dy­lan, who also be­came a sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian ear­lier this year, Si­mon is en­joy­ing some­thing of a re­nais­sance in the twi­light of his ca­reer. In April, he re­leased So Beau­ti­ful or So What, his 11th solo al­bum and his first in five years which Si­mon him­self felt was his best in 20 years.

He also played the main Pyra­mid stage at this year’s Glas­ton­bury Fes­ti­val, de­spite suf­fer­ing from a throat in­fec­tion, and this week an­nounced plans to tour his 1986 al­bum Grace­land next year and re­unite with the mu­si­cians who played on the record, in­clud­ing Lady­smith Black Mam­bazo. I first heard Si­mon’s songs af­ter stum­bling across The Si­mon and Gar­funkel Col­lec­tion while root­ing through my dad’s mu­sic col­lec­tion, which sent me scur­ry­ing to find the rest of the duo’s records, the zenith of which is Bridge Over Trou­bled Water – not only one of the great­est al­bums of all time, but also one of the great­est songs ever writ­ten. Few can lay claim to be­ing a con­tender for ei­ther, never mind both.

The Si­mon and Gar­funkel leg­end has loomed large over both men’s lives but Si­mon’s skill as a song­writer al­lowed him to es­cape its long and dead­en­ing shadow.

Grace­land has sold more than 14 mil­lion copies and is his most suc­cess­ful solo record to date. While There Goes Rhymin’ Si­mon may rank as one of the worst al­bum ti­tles in pop his­tory, mu­si­cally it’s as good as any­thing he’s done and stands shoul­der to shoul­der with JJ Cale’s equally bril­liant Nat­u­rally and Dy­lan’s ven­omous Blood on the Tracks.

It’s been noted that we of­ten turn to po­etry at times of grief and it was in­ter­est­ing that dur­ing last month’s mov­ing tributes in New York to mark the 10th an­niver­sary of 9/11, it was Si­mon who struck a chord with the mourn­ers when he played The Sound of Si­lence, a song he’d writ­ten six decades ear­lier.

We may no longer be liv­ing in the days of mir­a­cle and won­der but mu­sic still pro­vides the sound­track of our lives, a sound­track that would be bereft with­out Paul Si­mon.

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