My sister had two cats when I was a kid — Simon and Garfunkel. Like the famous duo themselves, the cats quickly split up — Simon ran off, but Garfunkel lived on for-seeming-ever, quickly getting dubbed "Art" for short. (You try standing out in the cul-de-sac yelling "GARFUNKEL! GAAAAAAAR-FUNKEL!")
In real life, it was Garfunkel who all but vanished, and Simon who stuck around, and around, and around. Paul Simon turned 70 Thursday, and kudos to him. He's managed to keep reinventing himself decade after decade, scoring hit after hit.
I find his lyrics floating through my head more than it's probably cool to admit. The songs are catchy, sure, but also the words are like poetry. "All along, along, there were incidents and accidents, there were hints and allegations." Or "she was physically forgotten, but then she slipped into my pocket with my car keys." They're also like prayers: "I have reason to believe, we all will be received in Graceland." Or: "Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down."
Sometimes it's the lesser-known songs that resound. I have a soft spot for "Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War." Who but Simon would write about a dadaist artist dancing naked to doo wop music?Story: Plenty of protests, but where's today's Dylan?
Every frustrated student can identify with the opening of "Kodachrome," which blares "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all." And I dare you to keep your feet still when the irresistible guitar of "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" comes on. "Goodbye to Rosie, the queen of Corona!"
On the first "Saturday Night Live" after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Simon performed "The Boxer" while Mayor Rudy Giuliani and members of the NYPD and FDNY looked on. It's one of those musical moments that will be remembered for years. His lyrics said what we all wanted to believe: The country was down but not out, would forever remember the blows, but wouldn't quit. The fighter still remains.
And this year, to mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks, he brought the tears again, this time with "Sounds of Silence." Reportedly, he was supposed to sing "Bridge Over Troubled Water," itself a beautiful song, but he made a smart call to change it up. In restless dreams, we all walk alone.
Here's to many more years of music.
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