Paul Simon: Still Singing Sweetly After All These Years

Paul Simon: Still Singing Sweetly After All These Years

I was very excited to hear that Paul Simon had a new album coming out this past week.  My first clue was that he performed on Jimmy Fallon's show twice last week- wow!  I wasn't sure what to expect since I haven't kept up with Paul too much lately.  I love Simon & Garfunkel, of course (who doesn't?), but their last album together was...41 years ago.

I decided to test my child rearing by quizzing the household youngsters (ages 'tween to teen).  The question was simple: Who is Paul Simon?  In a display of flexibility, I was willing to accept "former senator from Illinois" as a correct answer (one child is taking American Government, after all).  The responses:

• Girl #1 - broke into song ("Father and Daughter" from "The Wild Thornberries", a favorite movie from a decade or so ago).  Bonus points for singing.
• Girl #2 - "a singer".  Straightforward, correct.
• Boy - (try to imagine a voice with negative interest in this question) "No idea."  (now a spark of something) "Wait- one of the Beatles?"  Um, not quite.  His response cancelled out the bonus singing points from Girl #1.
• Girl #3 - also no response.  Then, using her reasoning skills, she tentatively guessed a singer.  She's a smart one!
• Random friend (female) - "An old guy?  It sounds like an old guy's name."  Right you are, random friend!

I was a tiny bit shocked to learn that Paul will turn 70 later this year, so he's a legit card carrying AARP member.  You can't tell he's that old from his voice, which sounds as sweet as ever, but you can tell from his song lyrics.  No longer do we hear about a quickie with Cecelia up in his bedroom or figuring out which of 50 ways to dump his gal.  No, Paul is preparing to meet the Big Guy and has taken a somewhat spiritual approach to his music.  Don't fret, though, the lyrics are more entertaining than heavy.

In "The Afterlife", Paul is a bit put off that God isn't immediately on hand to greet him after his funeral and welcome him to Heaven.  Instead, he is instructed to fill out some forms and stand in line for processing.  Quite honestly, Paul doesn't make Heaven sound all that much more appealing than a trip to the DMV.

"Getting Ready for Christmas" has an actual 1941 southern sermon sampled throughout.  Other song titles include "Love Is Eternal Sacred Light" and "Questions for the Angels", so you get the idea.  Paul hasn't totally abandoned his ability to sing a good love song, though.  "Love and Hard Times" is a beautiful love song, but even that is very spiritual, ultimately concluding with "Thank God I found you in time".  I have to wonder if Edie Brickell is so thrilled about the May-December thing at this point since she's a youthful 45 right now while Paul seems to be winding down.

If the spectrum of Paul Simon goes from "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to "Graceland", this falls somewhere in between.  It's not nearly as ethnic as "Graceland", but it does have some alternative type sounds it.  It's still Paul Simon, but he keeps things interesting by not always sounding the same.  Truthfully I'm relieved that Paul didn't get too crazy.  He has such a comforting voice that I enjoyed the nostalgic feel with a contemporary twist.  Edie and I are hoping he keeps making great music for many more years!

 

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  • While Paul Simon can still strike an emotional chord in listeners, it's hard not to miss his work with Art Garfunkel.

  • In reply to jensenlee:

    Wow, great trivia on "The Boxer". That song is beautiful. I think there are a lot of people who wish Simon & Garfunkel had kept going together.

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