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Paul Simon (born October 13, 1941) is an American folk and rock musician known both for his initial career in the folk-rock duo Simon and Garfunkel and his eclectic solo career, which has ranged from straightforward pop, rock and folk to world music explorations.
Simon first got together with Art Garfunkel in 1957 under the name "Tom and Jerry", but the partnership only became permanent with the success of their 1964 Signature Song "The Sounds of Silence". The duo released a string of critically acclaimed albums and became famous for their close harmonies and Simon's alternately surreal, poetic and humorous lyrics, before calling it a day in 1970.
Simon quickly moved on to a solo career, releasing the eponymous Paul Simon in 1972. For the rest of The Seventies, Simon pursued a jazz-pop sound with occasional elements from other genres such as gospel ("Loves Me Like a Rock") and reggae ("Mother and Child Reunion"). While his first three albums were greeted warmly by the record-buying public and critics, he went on a hiatus after 1976, dabbling with acting for a while. His supposed "comeback" records between 1980-1986 saw him abandoning his jazzy sound in favour of more experimentation and sold poorly.
However, Simon rebounded with his Magnum Opus, Graceland. Recorded in South Africa with a cast of talented African musicians and containing a fusion of Western pop-rock and folk music with African genres such as isicathamiya and mbaqanga, the album was released in 1986 to a wildly positive response despite criticism of Simon for recording in South Africa at the height of Apartheid. The album re-established Simon as a successful artist and became an enduring benchmark by which "world music" experiments by other pop artists are measured.
Away from the music world, Simon is a member of the Saturday Night Live Five-Timer's Club (even appearing in the original titular sketch). His memorable music video for "Call Me Al" features Chevy Chase.
This musician provides examples of:
- Coming of Age Story: "Duncan" is largely this, complete with dose of Sex As a Rite of Passage towards the end.
- Concept Album: Graceland.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Averaging 2 -3 before the world music started. After, we probably need a different scale.
- Noodle Incident: Not even Simon knows what Mama saw in "Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard".
- Not Christian Rock: 2011's So Beautiful Or So What contains many references to God and angels. Paul says he didn't notice.
- Performance Video: "You Can Call Me Al" is a parody of this, with Chevy Chase lip-syncing the lyrics while Simon plays various instruments.
- Signature Style: Lyrically, at least.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Started cynical-ish, especially on early Simon and Garfunkel records, but he's always had a foot in idealism.
- Technology Marches On: "Kodachrome" (1973) refers to the first successfully mass-marketed color still film, comparing it to memories. These days digital photography has taken over, and the name "Kodachrome" is more connected to the song than the film. The last batch of actual Kodachrome film was shipped out in 2009 with an expiration date of November 2010.
- Trope Codifier: He was the first to succeed at bringing world music to mainstream America's attention.
- Uptown Girl: "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" from Graceland is explicitly about this trope.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Boy In The Bubble borders on this.