Paul Simon is one of those unique individuals whose impact on the culture has continued unabated in many different guises over the nearly 30 years of his creative life. He has literally been a musical spokesman for the sentiments of many eras.
Beginning with his first persona of friend and duo mate Art Garfunkel, in the hit-making Simon and Garfunkel coupling, he was largely responsible for writing, arranging and producing the pair’s classic folk and rock material. Many of his songs are now standards, collected in albums such as “Sounds of Silence,” “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme,” the soundtrack “The Graduate” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Another song, “Mrs. Robinson,” itself one of his earliest classic hits, was the highlight of his soundtrack score for the film “The Graduate.”
Following these numerous triumphs, Paul Simon struck out on his own in 1971, commencing a brand new phase of his career, which became notable for its many varied and complex new directions. His debut album as a solo performer, appropriately titled, “Paul Simon,” combined jazz, reggae, rock and Latin music in a compelling and cosmopolitan mix.
In 1986, Simon found fascinating the “township jive” songs of black, South African musicians, resulting in the highly acclaimed “Graceland” album, which in turn marked a change of direction from his earlier introspective work toward new forms of musical expression. His most recent album, “Rhythm of the Saints,” was released in conjunction with the “Born at the Right Time Tour” of 1991 The album featured a number of prominent Brazilian artists highlighting once again Simon’s understanding and deep respect for international talent and its music.
Simon’s most recent work, the Broadway musical, “The Capeman,” was a collaboration with the poet and Nobel laureate Derek Walcott. Recently, he produced and released the album titled, “Songs from The Capeman,” containing selections from the show.
Simon is a New Yorker, all the way, having spent his formative academic years at PS 164 and Forest Hills High School in Queens and he graduated from Queens College in 1965. He has received a dozen Grammy awards and various other music-related honors, including the Dov award from the Gospel Music Association and an Emmy award for the “Paul Simon Special, which aired in the mid ‘70s. He has contributed in a substantial manner to charitable causes and is co-founder of the Children’s Health Fund, a national mobile medical-outreach program that provides free care for homeless and indigent children in South Africa. He has also raised money for the Nature Conservancy, the Fund for Detained and Imprisoned Children in South Africa and AmFAR.
In 1989, in recognition of his efforts, The United Negro College Fund bestowed upon Simon its highest honor, The Frederick I Patterson Award. The Berklee College of Music named him for an Honorary Doctorate of Music in 1986, and 10 years later, Yale University extended a similar honor.