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Paul Frederic Simon (born October 13, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, known for his success beginning in 1965 as part of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, with musical partner Art Garfunkel. Simon wrote most of the pair's songs, including "The Sound of Silence", "The Boxer", "Mrs. Robinson", and "Bridge Over Troubled Water". In 1970, at the height of their 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 in the introduction of world music into the mainstream. Simon's work has been generally praised by critics and the public, and has 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 Jerseymarker to Jewish Hungarian parents Bella (b. 1910, d. June 16, 2007), an elementary school teacher, and Louis Simon (b. circa 1916, d. January 17, 1995), a college professor, bassist, and dance bandleader who performed under the name "Lee Sims". In 1941 his family moved to Kew Garden Hills, Queens in New York City.

Simon's musical career began at Forest Hills High School when he and his friend Art Garfunkel began singing together, occasionally performing at school dances. Their idols were the Everly Brothers, whom they imitated in their use of close two-part harmony. Simon also developed an interest in jazz, folk and blues, especially musical legends Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly.

In 1957, while in their mid-teens, Simon and Garfunkel recorded the song "Hey, Schoolgirl" under the name Tom and Jerry, given to them by their label Big Records. The single reached number forty-nine on the pop charts.

After graduating from high school, Simon attended Queens College, while Garfunkel studied at Columbia University in Manhattanmarker. Simon was a brother in the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. Simon earned a degree in English literature and briefly attended Brooklyn Law School, but 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". 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 No. 97 on the Billboard charts in 1962. Tico and the Triumphs released four 45s. Marty Cooper, known as Tico, sang lead on several of these releases. Bobby Susser, children's songwriter and record producer, and childhood friend of Simon's, co-produced the Tico 45s with Simon. That year, Paul reached No. 99 on the pop charts as Jerry Landis with the hit "The Lone Teen Ranger." Both chart singles were released on Amy Records.

In 1965 Simon moved to England and started touring folk clubs and coffee houses. At the first club he played, the Railway Inn Folk Club in Brentwood, Essexmarker, he met Kathy Chitty who became his girlfriend and inspiration for "Kathy's Song", "America" and others. He performed at Les Cousinsmarker in London and toured provincial folk clubs where he was exposed to a wide range of musical influences. In 1965 he recorded his solo LP The Paul Simon Songbook in England. During his time in the UK Simon co-wrote several songs with Bruce Woodley of the Australian pop group The Seekers including "I Wish You Could Be Here," "Cloudy", and "Red Rubber Ball"; Woodley's co-author credit was incorrectly omitted from "Cloudy" on the Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album. The American group The Cyrkle recorded a cover of "Red Rubber Ball", which reached number two in the US. Simon also contributed his solo 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 executive Clive Davis was 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 drum, releasing it as a single that eventually went to number one on the pop charts in the USA.

Simon had gone to England in 1965 after the initial failure of Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., pursuing a solo career. But he returned to the US 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 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 City. 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 (without Garfunkel) as Hearts and Bones. Together, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker in 1990.

In 2003, the two reunited again when they received a 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 Colosseummarker in Rome. That final concert drew 600,000 people.

1971–76: success as a solo artist

After Simon and Garfunkel split in 1970, Simon began to write and record solo material. His eponymous album Paul Simon was released in January 1972, preceded by his first experiment with world music, the Jamaican-inspired "Mother and Child Reunion", considered one of the first examples of reggae attempted by a white musician. The single was a hit, reaching both the American and British Top 5. The album was particularly well received, with critics praising the variety of styles and the confessional lyrics, reaching No. 4 in the U.S. and No. 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", was a No. 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 weary "American Tune" or the melancholic "Something So Right" – a tribute to Simon's first wife, Peggy – became standards in the musician's catalogue. Critical and commercial reception for this sophomore album were even stronger than 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 a deeper level. The album reached No. 1 on the Cashbox album charts. As a souvenir for the tour that came next, in 1974 it was released as a live album, Live Rhymin', which was moderately successful and displayed 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 viewed as one of his finest works, marking another departure. The mood of the album was darker, as he wrote and recorded it 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 No. 9 on Billboard), the album managed to be his only No. 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" reached the top spot of the Billboard charts, his only single to reach No. 1 on this list.

1977–85: 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", reaching No. 5 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 name, in which Simon starred. Although it produced his last Top 10 hit with the upbeat "Late in the Evening" (also a No. 1 hit on the Radio & Records American charts), the album did not sell well, in a music market dominated by disco music. Simon recorded Hearts and Bones, a polished and confessional album that was eventually viewed as one of his best works, but that marked a lull in his commercial popularity; both the album and the lead single, "Allergies", missed the American Top 40. Hearts and Bones including "The Late Great Johnny Ace", a song partly about Johnny Ace, an American R&B singer, and partly about slain Beatle John Lennon The album remains a favorite with fans - many viewing it far above the succeeding album "Graceland" as his greatest work. Musicians Anthony Jackson, Rob Mounsey, Dean Parks, Michael Mainieri, Eric Gale, Richard Tee, Steve Gadd, Airto Moreira, Greg Phillinganes, Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards, Steve Ferrone, Jeff Porcaro, Marcus Miller Rob Sabino and Sid Mcginnis contributed, however the album was not a huge hit. A successful US solo tour featured Simon and his guitar, with a recording of the rhythm track and horns for "Late In The Evening". In January 1985 Simon lent his talent to USA for Africa and performed on the relief fundraising single "We Are the World".

1986–91: 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 eclectic 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. Warner Bros. Records had serious doubts about releasing an album of this category, but when it did, in August of 1986, Graceland was praised by critics and the public and became Simon's most successful album. It reached No. 1 in many countries, including Australia and the UK, and peaked at No. 3 in the U.S. It was the second-best-selling album of 1987 there, and eventually reached a 5x Platinum 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 introducing popular music, received the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for Graceland, and embarked on the successful "Graceland Tour".

After "Graceland", he decided to extend its roots with the Brazilian music-flavored The Rhythm of the Saints, which was released on October 1990. The album received excellent critical reviews and achieved very respectable sales, peaking at No. 4 in the U.S. and No. 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 as successful as Graceland, The Rhythm of the Saints was received as a competent successor and consistent complement on Simon's attempts to explore (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 in the forefront of popular music dropped notably. Since the early years 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.

In 1999 Simon embarked on a North American tour with Bob Dylan where each alternated as headline act with a 'middle' section where they performed together, starting on the first of June and ending September 18 (ref: One critic Seth Rogovoy from the Berkshire Eagle questioned the collaboration (

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 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 Famemarker 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 nine-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 unreleased songs, and outtakes from each of his nine solo albums.) At the time, Simon was already working on a new album with Brian EnoSurprise, which was finally released in 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 turning 60 since his previous album, You're the One. Then, he embarked on the successful "Surprise Tour", traveling Europe and North America.

Current news

As of 2007, Paul Simon resides in New Canaan, Connecticutmarker. 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 million lawsuit against RSO Records, which remains to this day the largest successful lawsuit against a record company by an artist or 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" on 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.

In February 2009, Simon performed back-to-back shows in his native New York Citymarker 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 musicalmarker 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 BAMmarker 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 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, at an event honoring Wonder's musical career and contributions, hosted by President Barack Obama.

In May 2009, The Library of Congress: Paul Simon and Friends Live Concert was released on DVD, via Shout! Factory. The PBS concert was recorded in 2007.

Awards and honors

Paul Simon won 13 Grammy Awards (one of them a Lifetime Achievement Award) and five Grammy nominations, the most recent for his album You're the One in 2001. In 1998 he received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award for the Simon & Garfunkel album Bridge over Troubled Water. He received an Oscar nomination for the song "Father and Daughter" in 2002.

In 2001 Paul Simon was honored as MusiCares Person Of The Year.

Paul 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 & Garfunkel.

In 2002, Paul Simon was one of the five annual recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, the nation's highest tribute to performing and cultural artists.

In 2005 he received the Top Award of the 53rd Annual BMI Pop Awards. His songwriting catalog has earned 39 BMI Awards including multiple citations for "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Mrs. Robinson," "Scarborough Fair" and "The Sound of Silence" and amassed nearly 75 million broadcast airplays, according to BMI surveys.

In 2006 Paul Simon was one of the "100 People Who Shaped the World" at Time Magazine.

Paul Simon received the first annual Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2007. Stevie Wonder got the second Gershwin Prize in 2009. Named in honor of the legendary George and Ira Gershwin, this newly created 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."Among the performers who payed tribute to Paul Simon were Stevie Wonder, Alison Krauss, Lyle Lovett, James Taylor, Dianne Reeves, Marc Anthony, Yolanda Adams, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The event is beautifully filmed, broad casted and now available as "Paul Simon and Friends."

Personal life

Simon has been married three times, first to Peggy Harper in late autumn 1969. They had a son, Harper Simon, in 1972 and 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, Adrian, Lulu, and Gabriel.


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. 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.


Number-one albums

Work on Broadway

See also


  1. Paul Simon - TIME
  2. Paul Simon, Speech given upon induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, OH, 2003.
  3. David Fricke, in the leaflet accompaniment to the Simon and Garfunkel 1997 album "Old Friends"
  4. "The Boy in the Bubble" by Patrick Humphries, page 96.
  5. Paul Simon News on Yahoo! Music
  6. Lorentzen, Amy, "Simon campaigns in Iowa for Dodd," Associated Press news article as printed in The Advocate of Stamford, Connecticut, with the words "Simon, who lives in New Canaan" added by editors at The Advocate - the words are not found in other versions of the article printed elsewhere, July 7, 2007
  7. Matt Blackett wrote in Guitar Player that "Because he’s such a great songwriter, Paul Simon never gets enough love for his guitar playing, and that’s just plain uncool, because this guy is awesome." See (retrieved 26 May 2009)
  8. Former Sen. Paul Simon Dies Fox News
  9. The open Paul Simon biography
  10. Ibid
  11. CHF - The Children's Health Fund
  12. Mobile health units bring medical care to homeless

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