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Graceland is an album released by Paul Simon in 1986. It was a hit in the UK topping the charts at #1. It also reached #3 in the US. The album won the Album of the Year Grammy award, while the title song won the Record of the Year Grammy award, for 1986 and 1987 respectively. In 2006, the album was added to the United States National Recording Registry, along with another 24 significant recordings that year.



Coming at a time when Simon's musical career was at something of a low ebb following the disappointing public response to Hearts and Bones, the project was originally inspired by Simon's listening to a cassette of the Boyoyo Boys instrumental "Gumboots", lent to him by Heidi Berg, a singer-songwriter with whom Simon was working (and who would later become an award-winning jingle singer and writer). Simon later wrote lyrics to sing over a re-recording of the song, which became the fourth track on the album.


Graceland features an eclectic mixture of musical styles including pop, a cappella, isicathamiya, rock, and mbaqanga.Much of the album was recorded in South Africa, and it features many South African musicians and groups. Simon faced accusations that he had broken the cultural boycott imposed by the rest of the world against the apartheid regime in South Africa, which was in its final years at the time. This view was not supported by the United Nations Anti-Apartheid Committee, as the album showcased the talents of the black South African musicians while offering no support to the South African government. The worldwide success of the album introduced some of the musicians, especially the vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, to global audiences of their own. The album also features legendary Ghanaian master drummer Okyerema Asante. Simon included American 'roots' influences with tracks featuring Zydeco and Tex-Mex musicians.The Everly Brothers sing harmony on the title track. Linda Ronstadt appears on the track "Under African Skies", the second verse of which Simon wrote based on her childhood experiences. The track 'Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes' was written by Paul about a short romance which he had with an affluent diamond mine owner's daughter. After the affair ended, the track was penned by the spurned Paul about how even though the woman acted in a way which she seemed to be a down to earth 'poor girl', there was no escaping the fact that she was from a privileged background. The track is a double-edged sword as, with the rest of the album, it also highlights the plight of the way African diamond miners were treated by mine owners.


The group Los Lobos appear on the last track, "All Around the World or The Myth of Fingerprints." According to Los Lobos's saxophone player Steve Berlin, Simon stole the song from Los Lobos, giving them no songwriting credit:
"It was not a pleasant deal for us. I mean he [Simon] quite literally — and in no way do I exaggerate when I say — he stole the songs from us... We go into the studio, and he had quite literally nothing. I mean, he had no ideas, no concepts, and said, 'Well, let's just jam.' ...Paul goes, 'Hey, what's that?' We start playing what we have of it, and it is exactly what you hear on the record. So we're like, 'Oh, ok. We'll share this song.' ...A few months later, the record comes out and says 'Words and Music by Paul Simon.' We were like, 'What the fuck is this?' We tried calling him, and we can't find him. Weeks go by and our managers can't find him. We finally track him down and ask him about our song, and he goes, 'Sue me. See what happens.'"

Paul Simon answered:

"I just said at this stage I don't care whether the album comes out without Los Lobos on it. I was getting really tired of it—I don't want to get into a public slanging match over this, but this thing keeps coming up. So we finished the recordings. And three months passed, and there was no mention of 'joint writing.' The album came out and we heard nothing. Then six months passed and Graceland had become a hit and the first thing I heard about the problem was when my manager got a lawyer's letter. I was shocked. They sent this thing to my manager, not me. If there was a problem, they could have contacted me direct. They've got my home number; we talked a lot. If you ask me, it was a lawyer's idea. You know, 'The record's a hit, and there's $100,000 in it.' They had nine months from the recordings to talk to me about all this, but I heard nothing. And it's still not sorted out, because they still keep bringing it up—I heard they'd done this interview for you. I don't want to get into a public slanging match with them, because I really like their music."

Release and aftermath

Graceland was Paul Simon's highest charting album in the U.S. in over a decade, reaching #3 in the national Billboard charts, receiving a certification of 5× Platinum by the RIAA and eventually selling over 14 million copies, making it the singer's most commercially successful album. Critics welcomed its eclectic mix of sounds and broad, quirky subject matter and it regularly shows up in critic polls and "recommended" lists. The album also helped to draw worldwide attention to the music of South Africa.

In the Graceland Classic Albums video, Simon states that he considers the title track the best song he has ever written. A popular music video starring Simon and Chevy Chase was made for the hit song "You Can Call Me Al". Simon toured the album extensively, featuring many of the artists from the album in addition to exiled South Africans Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba. Two concerts in Hararemarker, Zimbabwemarker, were filmed in 1987 for release as "The African Concert". The audience was a multi-racial mix with many travelling from South Africa.


  • Voted the best album of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll.
  • In 1998, Q magazine readers voted it the 56th greatest album of all time.
  • It was also ranked #84 in a 2005 survey held by British television's Channel 4 to determine the 100 greatest albums of all time.
  • In 1989, it was rated #5 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Albums of the '80s.
  • It is #81 on the list of Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
  • The song "Graceland" was voted #485 in the list of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • According to, a site which combines hundreds of best-of lists from critics and musicians from around the world, Graceland is ranked at #66 on the greatest albums of all time. It is also ranked #13 for albums released in the 1980s, and it is the second-highest ranking album of 1986, behind The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead).
  • In 2002, Pitchfork Media named it the 85th best album of the 1980s.
  • In 2006, Time named it one of the All-Time 100 Greatest Albums.

Track listing

All songs written by Paul Simon, except where indicated
  1. "The Boy in the Bubble" (Forere Motloheloa/Paul Simon) - 3:59
  2. "Graceland" - 4:48
  3. "I Know What I Know" (General MD Shirinda/Simon) - 3:13
  4. "Gumboots" (Lulu Masilela/Jonhjon Mkhalali/Simon) - 2:44
  5. "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" (Joseph Shabalala/Simon) - 5:45
  6. "You Can Call Me Al" - 4:39
  7. "Under African Skies" - 3:37
  8. "Homeless" (Shabalala/Simon) - 3:48
  9. "Crazy Love, Vol. II" - 4:18
  10. "That Was Your Mother" - 2:52
  11. "All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints" - 3:15

A 2004 CD reissue of the album includes three previously-unreleased bonus tracks:

  1. "Homeless" (demo version) - 2:28
  2. "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" (alternate version) - 4:43
  3. "All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints" (early version) - 3:17


  • Paul Simon - Acoustic Guitar (tracks 1 and 11), Guitar (tracks 5 and 7), Synclavier (track 3 and 4), Six-String Electric Bass (track 6), Background Vocals (tracks 1, 2, 4, 6, and 9)
  • Rob Mounsey - Horn Arrangement (track 6) (uncredited on album)
  • Ray Phiri - Guitar (tracks 2, 5, 6, 7, and 9)
  • Adrian Belew - Guitar Synthesizer (tracks 1, 6, and 9), Guitar (track 7)
  • Demola Adepoju - Pedal Steel Guitar (track 2)
  • Daniel Xilakazi - Lead and Rhythm Guitar (track 4)
  • Sherman Robertson - Guitar (track 10)
  • Cesar Rosas - Guitar and backing vocals (track 11)
  • David Hidalgo - Guitar, accordion, and backing vocals (track 11)
  • Conrad Lozano - Bass (track 11)
  • Alonzo Johnson - Bass (track 10)
  • Lloyd Lelose - Bass (track 9)
  • Bakithi Kumalo - Bass (tracks 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7)
  • Isaac Mtshali - Drums (tracks 5, 6, 7, and 9)
  • Vusi Khumalo - Drums (tracks 1 and 2)
  • Petrus Manile - Drums (track 4)
  • Alton Rubin, Jr. - Drums (track 10)
  • Louie Pérez - Drums (track 11)
  • Steve Gadd - Additional Drums (track 11)
  • Makhaya Mahlangu - Percussion (tracks 1 and 2)
  • Ralph MacDonald - Percussion (tracks 4, 6, 7, and 11)
  • Yossou N'Dour - Percussion (track 5)
  • Babacar Faye - Percussion (track 5)
  • Assane Thiam - Percussion (track 5)
  • Lulu Masilela - Tambourines (track 4)
  • David Rubin - Washboard (track 10)
  • Alton Rubin, Sr. - Accordion (track 10)
  • Jonhjon Mkhalali - Accordion (track 4)
  • Forere Motloheloa - Accordion (track 1)
  • Rob Mounsey - Synthesizer (tracks 1 and 6)
  • Barney Rachabane - Saxophone (track 4)
  • Mike Makhalemele - Saxophone (track 4)
  • Teaspoon Ndela - Saxophone (track 4)
  • Lenny Pickett - Tenor Saxophone (track 5)
  • Earl Gardner - Trumpet (track 5)
  • Alex Foster - Alto Saxophone (track 5)
  • Ronnie Cuber - Bass and Baritone Saxophone (track 6)
  • Jon Faddis - Trumpet (track 6)
  • Randy Brecker - Trumpet (track 6)
  • Lew Soloff - Trumpet (track 6)
  • Alan Rubin - Trumpet (track 6)
  • Dave Bargeron - Trombone (track 6)
  • Kim Cissel - Trombone (track 6)
  • Morris Goldberg - Pennywhistle (track 6), Soprano Saxophone (track 9)
  • Johnny Hoyt - Saxophone (track 10)
  • Steve Berlin - Saxophone (track 11)
  • The Everly Brothers - Additional Vocals (track 2)
  • The Gaza Sisters - Vocals (track 3)
  • Diane Garisto - Backing Vocals (track 4)
  • Michelle Cobbs - Backing Vocals (track 4)
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo - Vocals (tracks 5 and 8)
  • Joseph Shabalala - Vocals (track 8)
  • Linda Ronstadt - Additional Vocals (track 7)

Chart performance


Year Chart Position
1986 Billboard 200 3
1986 UK chart 1
1986 Canadian chart 1 (4 weeks)
1986 German chart 2
1986 Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart 1
1987 Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart 1


Year Single Chart Position
1986 Graceland Mainstream Rock Tracks 38
1986 Graceland Billboard Hot 100 80
1986 Graceland Billboard Hot 100 81
1986 You Can Call Me Al Adult Contemporary 14
1986 You Can Call Me Al Billboard Hot 100 23
1987 The Boy in the Bubble Mainstream Rock Tracks 15
1987 The Boy in the Bubble Billboard Hot 100 85
1999 You Can Call Me Al Billboard Hot 100 41

Grammy Awards

Year Album/Track Award Winner
1986 Graceland (album) Album of the Year 6697
1987 "Graceland" (song) Record of the Year 7061


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