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Paul Simon the Life

Robert Hilburn

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Simon & Schuster

Published : 2018

Copyright : Robert Hilburn 2018

ISBN-10 : HB 1-4711-7417-4
ISBN-13 : HB 978-1-4711-7417-9

Publisher's Write-Up

Through such hits as The Sound of Silence, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Still Crazy After All These Years, and Graceland, Paul Simon has spoken to us in songs for a half-century about alienation, doubt, survival, and faith in ways that have established him as one of the most honoured and beloved songwriters in American pop music history. Yet Simon has refused to talk to potential biographers and urged those close to him to also remain silent. But Simon not only agreed to talk to biographer Robert Hilburn for what has amounted to more than sixty hours, he also encouraged his family and friends to sit down for in-depth interviews.

Paul Simon is a revealing account of the challenges and sacrifices of artistry at the highest level. He has also lived a roller-coaster life of extreme ups and downs. We not only learn Paul’s unrelenting drive to achieve artistry, but also the subsequent struggles to protect that artistry against distractions – fame, wealth, marriage, divorce, drugs, complacency, public rejection, self-doubt – that have frequently derailed pop stars and each of which he encountered. From dominating the charts with Art Garfunkel and a successful reinvention as a solo artist, to his multiple marriages and highly publicized second divorce from Carrie Fisher, this book covers all aspects of this American icon.

'This stately biography does capture the tension between the focused, ambitious songwriter and his dreamy, unreliable former partner.'

The Times

'The first officially-sanctioned biography of the great singer-songwriter. It is everything fans could have hoped for, including valuable insights into Simon's life and art, and the cause of what appears to be his final personal rupture with Art Garfunkel.'

Choice magazine

'There are two great storytellers colliding here. There’s no tougher a mind, no more tender a voice than Paul Simon, and there’s no better man than Robert Hilburn to decipher the hardwiring of this hyperintellect. From the prologue I was sucked in, suckered into a sense that I too might discover the genetic code of some of the greatest songs of any century. By the epilogue, you realize the great songs can never be fully explained, but the great man on his way to find those songs surely can.'

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Review by Ben Macnair (280219) Rating (8/10)

Review by Ben Macnair
Book Source: Not Known
Rating 8/10

When the subject of an auto-biography has had as much of an interesting life as Paul Simon has, the auto-biography tends to fall into one of two traps, either a hatchet job or a hagiography; thankfully Robert Hilburn has avoided both.

Paul Simon is rightly regarded as one of the finest and most influential songwriters of all time, seen in the same company as Bob Dylan, Lennon and McCartney, Leonard Cohen, and many others. His early folk work with Art Garfunkel is seen as a high-water mark for close male harmony singing and songcraft, whilst his controversial experiments with African music created one of the bestselling albums of all time, in Graceland, and although he is now a music elder-statesman his many tours and concerts still attract sold out audiences.

So we look at, in almost forensic detail the words and sounds found in Simon’s songs, such as Bridge over Troubled Waters, The Sound of Silence, Mrs Robinson, You Can Call Me Al, Diamonds on the Sole of Her Shoes, and so many others that have coloured the experiences of many generations around the world as they grew up. We examine his love of Baseball and Mickey Mantle, his close relationship to his family and his brother and manager, the fractured, but important relationship with Art Garfunkel, his marriages and relationships with his children.

As the story of Simom’s career unfolds, from the early stories of Tom and Jerry, and the success of Simon and Garfunkel in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the success of the soundtrack to The Graduate, we also see the disappointments, from the controversy that surrounded him working with African musicians on Graceland, the failure of his Capeman album and musical, and how he has managed both quality and diversity in his work, as he approaches his eighth decade, and slows down.

Simon didn’t start as a musical prodigy, his talent was delivered through hard work, determination, and an open minded approach to his craft that saw him, magpie like taking elements from many different genres. He was also a song-writer of his time, and yet many of his songs have become timeless, sung by choirs, bands, buskers and open mike players the world over.

The Paul Simon that emerges from this book is not a hero, but neither is he a villain. He is a man that is driven to write and produce songs and music of the highest quality, that by dint of their universal appeal have shaped the music of the world, bought new sounds and ideas to radios and listener ears. If you like the music of Paul Simon, or just have a general interest in pop music in its widest sense, then this book is a worthy read.
Ben Macnair (28th February 2019)

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