Biography of Paul Simon
Paul Frederic Simon (born October 13, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter. He entered the public consciousness in 1965 as part of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, along with longtime artistic partner Art Garfunkel. Simon solely wrote most of the music of the duo, including memorable songs as The Sound of Silence, The Boxer and Mrs. Robinson, and Bridge Over Troubled Water. In 1970, at the height of its popularity, the duo split and Simon began a successful solo career, highlighted by his 1986 experiment with African music on the album Graceland, which was decisive on the introduction of world music into the mainstream. Simon's work has been generally praised by critics and the public, and enjoyed notable commercial success for over four decades of production. In 2006, Time magazine called him one of the 100 "people who shape our world."
Early life and career-
Paul Simon was born in Newark, New Jersey to Jewish Hungarian parents Bella (b. 1910, d. June 16, 2007), an Elementary School teacher, and Louis Simon (b. circa 1916, d. Jan. 17, 1995), a college professor, bassoon player, and dance bandleader who performed under the name "Lee Sims". In 1941 his family moved to Kew Garden Hills in New York City. Simon's musical career began at Forest Hills High School when he and his friend Art Garfunkel began singing together as a duo, occasionally performing at school dances. Their idols were the Everly Brothers, whom they often emulated or imitated in their early recordings. Paul developed an interest in jazz, folk and blues, and in particular in artists such as Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly. Simon and Garfunkel were named Tom & Jerry by their record company and it was under this name that the duo first had success. In 1957, they recorded the single "Hey, Schoolgirl" on Big Records; it reached forty-nine on the pop charts while they were still in their teens.
After graduating from high school, Simon attended Queens College, while Garfunkel studied at Columbia University in Manhattan. Simon was a brother in the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. Though Simon earned a degree in English literature, his real passion was rock and roll. Between 1957 and 1964, Simon wrote, recorded, and released more than thirty songs, occasionally reuniting with Garfunkel as Tom & Jerry for some singles, including "Our Song" and "That's My Story," among others. He also briefly attended Brooklyn Law School.
Most of the songs Simon recorded in the six years after 1957 were performed alone or with musicians other than Garfunkel. They were released on several minor record labels, such as Amy, Big, Hunt, King, Tribute, and Madison. He used several different pseudonyms for these recordings, including Jerry Landis, Paul Kane (from Orson Welles's film Citizen Kane) and True Taylor. Simon enjoyed some moderate success in recording a few singles as part of a group called Tico and the Triumphs, including a song called "Motorcycle" which reached #97 on the Billboard charts in 1962. Tico and the Triumphs released four 45s. Marty Cooper, a member of the group, sang lead on several of these releases and was actually known as Tico. Bobby Susser, children's songwriter and record producer, and childhood friend of Simon's, co-produced the Tico 45s with Simon. That same year, Paul reached #99 on the pop charts as Jerry Landis with the hit "The Lone Teen Ranger." Both chart singles were released on Amy Records.
During the mid-1960s, while living in the United Kingdom he performed at Les Cousins in London and toured provincial folk clubs. In these venues he was exposed to a wide range of musical influences and, while in England, recorded his solo The Paul Simon Songbook in 1965. In late 1965 whilst touring England, he performed at a large house in Great Shelford near Cambridge which was the location for the 21st birthday celebration of Libby January, girlfriend of Pink Floyd album cover designer Storm Thorgerson. The Pink Floyd Sound and David Gilmour's band Jokers Wild also performed at this party with a then unknown Paul Simon. This location was to be later used for the Cover Art on Pink Floyd's 1969 double album Ummagumma. During his time in the U.K. Simon co-wrote several songs with Bruce Woodley of the Australian pop group The Seekers. "I Wish You Could Be Here," "Cloudy", and "Red Rubber Ball" were written during this period. However, Woodley's co-authorship credit was incorrectly omitted from "Cloudy" off the Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album. When the American group The Cyrkle recorded a cover of "Red Rubber Ball," the song reached number two in the US. Simon also contributed his original composition to The Seekers catalogue, "Someday One Day," which was released in March 1966.
Simon & Garfunkel--
In early 1964, Simon and Garfunkel got an audition with Columbia Records, whose executives were impressed enough to sign the duo to a contract to produce an album. Columbia decided that the two would be called simply "Simon & Garfunkel," which Simon claimed in 2003, was the first time that artists' ethnic names had been used in pop music.
Simon and Garfunkel's first LP, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. was released on October 19, 1964 and comprised twelve songs in the folk vein, five of them written by Simon. The album initially flopped, but East Coast radio stations began receiving requests for one of the tracks, Simon's "The Sound of Silence." Their producer, Tom Wilson, overdubbed the track with electric guitar, bass, and drums, releasing it as a single that eventually went to number one on the pop charts in the USA.
Simon had gone to England after the initial failure of Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., pursuing a solo career (including collaborations with Bruce Woodley of The Seekers) and releasing the album The Paul Simon Song Book in the UK in 1965. But he returned to the USA to reunite with Garfunkel after "The Sound of Silence" had started to enjoy commercial success. Together they recorded four influential albums, Sounds of Silence; Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme; Bookends; and Bridge over Troubled Water. Simon and Garfunkel also contributed extensively to the soundtrack of the 1967 Mike Nichols film The Graduate (starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft). While writing "Mrs. Robinson," Simon originally toyed with the title "Mrs. Roosevelt." When Garfunkel reported this indecision over the song's name to the director, Nichols replied, "Don't be ridiculous! We're making a movie here! It's Mrs. Robinson!"
Simon pursued solo projects after the duo released their very popular album Bridge over Troubled Water. Occasionally, he and Garfunkel did reunite, such as in 1975 for their Top Ten single "My Little Town," which Simon originally wrote for Garfunkel, claiming Garfunkel's solo output was lacking "bite." The song was included on their respective solo albums; Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years, and Garfunkel's Breakaway. Contrary to popular belief, the song is not at all autobiographical of Simon's early life in New York. In 1981, they got together again for the famous concert in Central Park, followed by a world tour and an aborted reunion album Think Too Much, which was eventually released (sans Garfunkel) as Hearts and Bones. Together, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
In 2003, the two reunited again when they received Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. This reunion led to a U.S. tour, the acclaimed "Old Friends" concert series, followed by a 2004 international encore, which culminated in a free concert at the Colosseum in Rome. That final concert drew 600,000 people.
1971-1976: Success as a solo artist--
After Simon and Garfunkel split in 1970, Simon began to write and record solo material. His eponymous album was released January 1972, preceded by his first experiment with world music, the Jamaican-inspired "Mother and Child Reunion", which is widely considered one of the first reggae attempts by a white musician. The single was a hit, reaching both the American and British Top 5, and the album was particularly well received, with critics praising the variety of styles and the confessional lyrics, and with the Paul Simon reaching at #4 in the U.S. and #1 on the UK and Japan. It later spawned another Top 30 hit with "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard".
Simon's next project was the pop-folk masterpiece, There Goes Rhymin' Simon, released in May 1973. It contained some of his most popular and polished recordings - the lead single, "Kodachrome", with its fresh arrangement and comical message, was a #2 hit in America, and the follow-up, the gospel-flavored "Loves Me Like a Rock" was even bigger, topping the Cashbox charts. Other songs, like the patriotic "American Tune" or the melancholic "Something So Right" – a tribute to Simon's first wife, Peggy – became standards on the musician's catalogue. Critical and commercial reception for this sophomore album were even stronger than there were for his debut. At the time, it was remarked how the songs were very fresh and unworried on the surface while they were exploring socially and politically conscious themes on the deepest (particularly the dark cloud of the Watergate scandal involving the Richard Nixon administration. The album reached #1 on the Cashbox album charts. As a souvenir for the tour that came next, in 1974 it was released a live album, Live Rhymin', which was moderately successful and showed, again, some changes in the Simon's music style, adopting world and religious music.
Highly anticipated, Still Crazy After All These Years was his next album. Released in October 1975 and produced by Simon and Phil Ramone, it was received as one of his finest works, marking another departure from his previous work as the atmosphere of the recordings were sad, darker and entirely confessional, as he wrote and recorded in the wake of his divorce. Preceded by the feel-good duet with Phoebe Snow, "Gone at Last" (a Top 25 hit) and the Simon & Garfunkel reunion track "My Little Town" (a #9 on Billboard), the album managed to be his only #1 on the Billboard charts to date, and eventually won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year. With Simon in the forefront of popular music, the third single from the album, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" was immensely popular, reaching the top spot of the Billboard charts (this was, also, his only single to reach #1 on this list).
1977-1985: Lack of success and production--
After three back-to-back successful studio albums, Simon became less productive during the second half of the seventies. He dabbled in various projects, including writing music for the film Shampoo (a project which was eventually scrapped) and acting (he was cast as Tony Lacey in Woody Allen's film Annie Hall). He achieved another hit in this decade, with the lead single of his 1977 compilation, Greatest Hits, Etc., "Slip Slidin' Away", a #5 hit in America.
In 1980 he released One Trick Pony, his debut album with Warner Bros. Records and his first in almost five years. It was paired with the motion picture of the same, which Simon starred. Although it produced a Top 10 hit (Simon's final) with the upbeat "Late in the Evening" (also a #1 hit on the Radio & Records American charts), the album did not sell well, in a music market particularly dominated by disco music. Then, Simon began to recording Hearts and Bones, a polished and confessional album that was recognized with time as one of his best works, but that marked a lull in his commercial popularity during this era, at the point that the both the album and the lead single, "Allergies", missed the American Top 40. Hearts and Bones was particularly remarkable for its inclusion of "The Late Great Johnny Ace", a song partly about Johnny Ace, an American R&B singer, and partly about slain ex-Beatle John Lennon. With his solo career in the middle of a crisis, Simon lent his talents to USA for Africa and performed on the relief fundraising single "We Are the World".
1986-1991: Triumphal return, commercial and critical acclaim--
Around 1985, while he was driving his car, Simon listened to a cassette of the Boyoyo Boys instrumental "Gumboots". Inspired by the unusual sound, he wrote lyrics to sing over a re-recording of the song, which became the first song of his next musical project, Graceland, an electic mixture of musical styles including pop, a cappella, isicathamiya, rock, and mbaqanga. Much of the album was recorded in South Africa and featured many South African musicians and groups, particularly Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Columbia had serious doubts about releasing an album of this category, but when it did, in August 1986 Graceland was praised by critics and the public and became Simon's most successful album. It reached #1 in many countries, including Australia in the UK, and peaked at #3 in the U.S. It was the second-best selling album of 1987 there, and eventually reached a 5xPlatinum certification, recognizing five million copies sold only in America. Another seven million copies were sold internationally, becoming his best-selling album. The singles "You Can Call Me Al" (a British Top 5 hit), "Graceland", "The Boy in the Bubble" and "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" became standards and were highly praised. Simon, at age 45, back in the forefront of popular music introducing, received the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for Graceland, and embarked on the successful "Graceland Tour".
After "Graceland", he decided to extent its roots with the brazilian music-flavored The Rhythm of the Saints, which was released on October 1990. The album received excellent critics and achieved very respectable sales, peaking at #4 in the U.S. and #1 in the UK. The lead single, "The Obvious Child", was a Top 20 hit in the UK. The album received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. Although not successful as Graceland, The Rhythm of the Saints was received as a competent successor and consistent complement on Simon's attempts to explore with (and popularize) world music. The importance of both albums allowed Simon to stage another New York concert, and on August 15, 1991, almost a decade after his concert with Garfunkel, Simon staged another concert in Central Park with both African and South American bands. The success led to both a live album and an Emmy-winning TV special.
1992-2007: Commercial and critical up and downs--
After 1991, Simon's place on the forefront of popular music dropped notably. Since the early stages of the decade he worked on The Capeman, a musical that finally opened on 1997 receiving terrible reviews and becoming a commercial failure from which Simon lost 11 million dollars. The album was received with lukewarm expectations, and it missed the Top 40. Then, Simon wrote and recorded a new album very quickly, with "You're the One" arriving in 2000. While not reaching the commercial heights of previous albums (it only managed to reach the UK and US Top 20), it received favorable reviews and received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. The same year, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. In 2002 Simon wrote and recorded "Father and Daughter", the theme song for the animated children's movie The Wild Thornberrys Movie, The track was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song. In 2004, Simon's studio albums were re-released both individually and together in a limited-edition 9-CD boxed set, Paul Simon: The Studio Recordings 1972–2000. (The expanded individual albums feature a total of thirty bonus tracks, including original song demos, live recordings, duets, six never-before-released songs, and outtakes from each of his nine solo albums.) At the time, Simon was already working on a new album with Brian Eno – Surprise, which was finally released on May 2006. In commenting on US TV show Ellen what drove him to write material for this latest album, Simon noted the events of September 11, 2001 and also turning 60 since his previous album You're the One. Then, he embarked on the succesful "Surpirse Tour", traveling Europe and North America.
As of 2007, Paul Simon resides in New Canaan, Connecticut. He is one of a small number of performers such as Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Johnny Rivers, Billy Joel, Pink Floyd (from 1975's Wish You Were Here onward), Queen, Genesis (though under the members' individual names and/or the pseudonym Gelring Limited) and Neil Diamond who have their name as the copyright owner on their recordings (most records have the recording company as the named owner of the recording). This noteworthy development was spearheaded by supergroup The Bee Gees after their successful $200,000,000 lawsuit against RSO, which remains to this day the largest successful lawsuit against a record company by an artist/group.
Simon is also one of the practitioners of a creative and distinctive fingerstyle guitar style in popular music. His instrumental proficiency (influenced by British guitarist Davey Graham as evidenced by his cover of Graham’s very difficult "Anji" from Sounds of Silence) has always been highly underrated and practically invisible as a guitarist. His Cole Porter-esque compositional abilities with his combination of jazz-tinged chords and seamless, romantic, poetic lyrics ranged throughout all his different songwriting styles.needs citation
In February 2009, Simon performed back-to-back shows in his native New York City at the Beacon Theater, which had recently been renovated. Simon was reunited with Art Garfunkel at the first show as well as with the cast of The Capeman; also playing in the band was Graceland bassist Bakithi Kumalo.
As of May 2009, Simon is touring with Art Garfunkel in Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
Music for Broadway--
In the late 1990s, he also wrote and produced a Broadway musical called The Capeman, which lost $11 million during its 1998 run. In April 2008, the Brooklyn Academy of Music celebrated Paul Simon's works, and dedicated a week to Songs From the Capeman with a good portion of the show's songs performed by a cast of singers and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Simon himself appeared during the BAM shows, performing "Trailways Bus" and "Late In the Evening".
Film and television--
Simon has also dabbled in acting. He played music producer Tony Lacey in the 1977 Woody Allen film Annie Hall, and wrote and starred in 1980's One Trick Pony as Jonah Levin, a journeyman rock and roller. Simon also wrote all the songs in the film. Paul Simon also appeared on The Muppet Show (the only episode to use only the songs of one songwriter, Simon). In 1990, he played the character Simple Simon on the Disney channel TV movie, Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme.
Simon has also appeared on Saturday Night Live (SNL) either as host or musical guest for a total of 12 times. On one appearance in the late 1980s, he worked with his political namesake, Illinois Senator Paul Simon.
His most recent SNL appearance was the May 13, 2006 episode hosted by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. He performed two new songs from his Surprise album, "How Can You Live in the Northeast?" and "Outrageous". In one SNL skit from 1986 (when he was promoting Graceland), Simon plays himself, waiting in line with a friend to get into a movie. He amazes his friend by remembering intricate details about prior meetings with passers-by, but draws a complete blank when approached by Art Garfunkel, despite the latter's numerous memory prompts.
Simon also appeared alongside George Harrison as musical guest on the Thanksgiving Day episode of SNL (November 20, 1976). The two performed "Here Comes the Sun" and "Homeward Bound" together, while Simon performed "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" solo earlier in the show. On that same episode, Simon opened the show singing "Still Crazy After All These Years" in a turkey outfit, since Thanksgiving was the following week. About halfway through the song, Simon tells the band to stop playing because of his embarrassment. After giving a frustrating speech to the audience, he leaves the stage, backed by applause. Lorne Michaels positively greets him backstage, but Simon is still upset, yelling at him because of the humiliating turkey outfit. This is one of SNL's most played sketches.
On September 29, 2001, Simon made a special appearance on the first SNL to air after the September 11, 2001 attacks. On that show, he performed "The Boxer" to the audience and the NYC firefighters and police officers. He is also friends with former SNL star Chevy Chase, who appeared in his video for "You Can Call Me Al" lip synching the song while Simon looks disgruntled and mimes backing vocals and the playing of various instruments beside him. He is a close friend of SNL producer Lorne Michaels, who produced the 1977 TV show The Paul Simon Special, as well as the Simon and Garfunkel concert in Central Park four years later. Simon and Lorne Michaels were the subjects of a 2006 episode of the Sundance channel documentary series, Iconoclasts.
He has been the subject of two films by Jeremy Marre, the first on Graceland, the second on The Capeman.
On November 18, 2008, Simon was a guest on The Colbert Report promoting his book "Lyrics 1964-2008". He did an interview with Stephen Colbert and then performed "American Tune".
Simon performed a Stevie Wonder song at the White House in 2009, for an honor to Wonder's musical career and contributions, hosted by President Barack Obama.
In May of 2009, The Library of Congress: Paul Simon and Friends Live Concert, comes to DVD, via Shout! Factory. The Hit PBS Concert was made in 2007.
Simon is a two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — as a solo artist in 2001, and in 1990 as half of Simon and Garfunkel. In 2002, Simon was one of the five annual recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, the nation's highest tribute to performing and cultural artists. He received the award after Sir Paul McCartney withdrew, citing "personal considerations."
On March 1, 2007, Simon was announced as the recipient of the first annual Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, which he received on May 23, 2007. The award recognizes the profound and positive effect of popular music on the world’s culture. Upon being notified of receiving this honor, Simon said, “I am grateful to be the recipient of the Gershwin Prize and doubly honored to be the first. I look forward to spending an evening in the company of artists I admire at the award ceremony in May. I can think of a few who have expressed my words and music far better than I. I’m excited at the prospect of that happening again. It’s a songwriter’s dream come true." Simon was also reunited with Art Garfunkel for the occasion, when they performed "Bridge over Troubled Water" and "Cecilia."
The Gershwin Prize event was nationally broadcast on PBS on June 27, 2007. and made available on DVD by Shout! Factory in May 2009 as Paul Simon And Friends and features all the 22 performances, including Marc Anthony, Shawn Colvin, Art Garfunkel, Alison Krauss, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Lyle Lovett, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder and others.
Simon has been married three times. His first marriage was to Peggy Harper; they were married in late autumn 1969. They had a son, Harper Simon, in 1972. They divorced in 1975. The song "Train in the Distance," from Simon's 1983 album, is about this relationship.  Simon's 1972 song "Run That Body Down," from his debut solo album, casually mentions both himself and his then-wife ("Peg") by name.
His second marriage was to actress and author Carrie Fisher to whom he proposed after a New York Yankees game. (The song "Hearts and Bones" was written about this relationship.)
He married folk singer Edie Brickell on May 30, 1992. They have three children together.
Simon was arrested in 1974 at an airport in London when he was found with 9 ounces of Cannabis.
Simon is a proponent of music education for children. In 2003, he signed on as an official supporter of Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization that provides free musical instruments and free lessons to children in public schools throughout the U.S.A. He sits on the organization's board of directors as an honorary member.
Paul Simon is also a major benefactor and one of the co-founders, with Dr. Irwin Redlener, of the Children's Health Project and The Children's Health Fund which started by creating specially equipped "buses" to take medical care to children in medically underserved areas, urban and rural. Their first bus was in the impoverished South Bronx of New York City but they now operate in 12 states, including the Gulf Coast. It has expanded greatly, partnering with major hospitals, local public schools and medical schools and advocating policy for children's health and medical care.
- 1972 – Paul Simon (UK, Japan)
- 1973 – There Goes Rhymin' Simon (US Cashbox)
- 1975 – Still Crazy After All These Years (US)
- 1986 – Graceland (UK, Australia, Canada)
- 1990 – The Rhythm of the Saints (UK)
Work on Broadway--
- Rock 'N Roll! The First 5,000 Years (1982) - revue - featured songwriter for Mrs. Robinson
- Asinamali! (1987) - play - co-producer
- Mike Nichols and Elaine May: Together Again on Broadway (1992) - concert - performer
- The Capeman (1998) - composer, co-lyricist and music arranger - Tony Nomination for Best Original Score
- The Graduate (2002) - play - featured songwriter