Paul Simon

(redirected from Paul Simon (Musician))
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.

Simon, Paul

Simon, Paul, 1941–, American singer, songwriter, and guitarist, b. Newark, N.J. A polished and intelligent folk-rock lyricist and performer, he first gained fame as half of Simon and Garfunkel (with Art Garfunkel, 1942–). The vocal and instrumental twosome, with their close harmonies and folk-inflected lyrics and melodies, were extremely successful in the second half of the 1960s. Among their hits were “The Sound of Silence,” “Scarborough Fair,” “Homeward Bound” and “Mrs. Robinson.” Not long after their highly successful album Bridge over Troubled Water (1970) and single of the same name, Simon chose to pursue a solo career, releasing the album Paul Simon in 1972.

In his solo work, Simon has used a startling variety of national and international styles, mingling them with an idiosyncratic and highly personal content. His folk-inflected and often introspective songs of the 1970s are typified by those on Still Crazy after All These Years (1975). He broadened his themes in Graceland (1986), one of the most popular albums of the decade, which featured several African musicians, including the South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. His next album, The Rhythm of the Saints (1990), explored Afro-Brazilian music. After the failure of his Latin-themed Broadway musical The Capeman (1997, written with Derek Walcott), Simon toured (1999) with Bob Dylan. Later albums are You're the One (2000), Surprise (2006), So Beautiful So What (2011), and Stranger to Stranger (2016).


See biographies by P. Humphries (1989), M. Eliot (2010), and P. A. Carlin (2016); M. S. Cohen, Simon and Garfunkel (1977) and V. Kingston, Simon and Garfunkel: The Biography (1998); S. Luftig, ed. Paul Simon Companion: Four Decades of Commentary (1997); S. Steinberg, dir., American Masters, Paul Simon (documentary, 1993).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Simon, Paul

(1942–  ) singer, composer, lyricist; born in Newark, N.J. Son of teachers (his father also played double bass in a radio orchestra), he got to know Art Garfunkel (1942–  ; b. New York City) in the sixth grade at their Queens (New York City) public school. Sharing an interest in sports and pop music, they began to sing together—Simon played the acoustic guitar—and soon were performing at local social functions. By 1957 they were calling themselves "Tom and Jerry" and had a recording contract; one of their songs, "Hey Schoolgirl," became a minor hit. By 1959 they had drifted apart, Simon going to Queens College, Garfunkel to Columbia University, but by their sophomore year they were reunited and turning to folk music. Simon had continued his professional singing career but after taking his B.A. he briefly attended Brooklyn Law School. They cut their first album as Simon and Garfunkel in 1964, and one of its songs, "Sounds of Silence," was so popular that it was issued as a single and became a top hit. This led to a series of highly successful singles and albums, a constant round of appearances at colleges, on television, tours in Europe and the U.S.A., and special concerts. Their music for the movie The Graduate (1967) included a new hit, "Mrs. Robinson." "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" (1970) was their next big hit. They split up in 1970—Simon simply stated that "I didn't want to be half of something"; they appeared together at a political rally in 1972, but then not again until a 1981 concert in Central Park; they toured together in 1982 and 1983 and thereafter appeared infrequently on special occasions. Garfunkel—who for the most part had simply been singing Simon's compositions—went on to pursue a career as a movie actor (as in Carnal Knowledge, 1971) although he also continued to record solo albums. Simon continued expanding his musical interests and styles and maintained his standing as one of the major figures in popular music. His recordings, such as Still Crazy After All These Years (1975), continued to win awards. He wrote the screenplay and songs as well as starred in the movie One-Trick Pony (1980), and had a small role in Annie Hall (1977). In 1985 he went to South Africa and recorded with some prominent (black) South African musicians; this led to his highly successful album, Graceland (1986), but also to some protests against his being perceived as cooperating with the racist authorities; he denied this and in 1992 was invited by black South Africans to play there. The Rhythm of the Saints (1990) reflected his continuing interest in music from other cultures. He was generous with both his money and musical talents in supporting a variety of charitable causes.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
Mentioned in ?