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Image: Paul Simon performs on 9/11/11.
Jonathan D. Woods  /  msnbc.com
Paul Simon performs "Sounds of Silence" at Ground Zero during the 10th anniversary commemoration ceremony of the Sept. 11 attacks.
updated 10/13/2011 3:18:58 PM ET 2011-10-13T19:18:58

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.

What's your favorite Paul Simon song? Tell us on Facebook.

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Photos: Bands of the 70s that just won't quit

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  1. AC/DC

    Scottish brothers Malcolm and Angus Young formed AC/DC in 1973 with bassist Larry Van Kriedt, vocalist Dave Evans and drummer Colin Burgess. The bassist and drummer roles changed a lot in the early years before finally Mark Evans and Phil Rudd settled in. Dave Evans was replaced by Bon Scott in 1974. The band’s classic album “Highway to Hell” was released in 1979 and Scott died a year later in 1980. Brian Johnson replaced Scott and the band went on to release “Back in Black.” In 2008, the band released its first album in eight years, “Black Ice.” The band hit the road for an 18-month tour in Oct. 2008. (Redferns via Getty Images, AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Average White Band

    Alan Gorrie, Malcolm “Molly” Duncan, Onnie McIntyre, Hamish Stuart, Roger Ball and Robbie McIntosh formed the Average White Band in 1971 in Dundee, Scotland. McIntosh died of a heroin overdose in 1974 and was replaced by Steve Ferrone. The band were known for hits such as “Pick Up the Pieces” and “Cut the Cake.” The band disbanded in 1982. Today, a version of the band still tours with original members McIntyre and Gorrie. (Average White Band) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Chicago

    A group of DePaul University music students formed Chicago in 1967. The members included guitarist Terry Kath, keyboardist Robert Lamm, drummer Danny Seraphine, bassist Peter Cetera, saxophonist Walter Parazaider, trombonist James Pankow and trumpet player Lee Loughnane. The band released at least one disc a year during the 1970s. It has sold more than 120 million albums, with five No. 1 albums, and 21 top 10 hits. The band’s current lineup is Lamm, Pankow, Loughnane, Parazaider, Jason Scheff, Tris Imboden, Keith Howland and Lou Pardini. The band’s hits include “Baby, What a Big Surprise” and “If You Leave Me Now.” In 2009, Chicago toured with Earth, Wind and Fire. (Jerry T. Lai / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. The Doobie Brothers

    Tim Johnston, Patrick Simmons, Dave Shorgen and John Hartman formed the Doobie Brothers in 1970. Over the years, the lineup went through many changes and included Michael Hossack, Tiran Porter, Keith Knudsen, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Michael McDonald, Bobby LaKind, John McFee, Chet McCracken, Cornelius Bumpus and Skylark among others. The band’s hits include “Listen to the Music,” “It Keeps You Runnin’” and “Black Water.” The band is on the road for the rest of 2009 and will be playing in Tempe, Ariz. on New Year’s Eve. (Courtesy of Sarah Marie Davis) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The Eagles

    The Eagles started out as a backing band for Linda Rondstadt, whose manager, John Boylan, recruited session musicians Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner. Frey invited Don Henley and the group played on Rondstadt’s 1972 self-titled album. The band recorded their first album, “Eagles,” in 1972 and went on to make six No. 1 albums. Their hits include, “Hotel California,” “Desperado” and “Heartache Tonight.” Leadon left the band in 1975 and was replaced by Joe Walsh. Meisner was eventually replaced by Timothy B. Schmit. The band broke up in 1980, but reunited in 1994 for “Hell Freezes Over.” In 2009, the Eagles are still touring in support of their latest album, “Long Road Out of Eden.” (Elektra/Asylum Records, Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Journey

    In 1973, former Santana members Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie came together with Ross Valory, George Tickner and Priarie Prince to form Journey. Steve Perry joined the band in 1978. The band’s hits included “Wheel in the Sky,” “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Open Arms.” The band split in 1984, with Schon and Perry pursuing solo careers. The band reunited in 1995, but Perry left again in 1998 and was replaced by Steve Augeri. In 2006, Augeri was dropped from the band and replaced by Jeff Scott Soto, but he too was replaced, this time by Arnel Pineda of the cover band The Zoo, which Schon had seen on YouTube. (Steve C.Mitchell / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Heart

    Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson form the core of the band, which went through various lineups during the 1970s before finally settling on a lineup that featured Mike Fisher, Roger Fisher, Steve Fossen, John Hannah and Brian Jonstone. The members of the band changed throughout the years and included Michael DeRosier, Howard Leese, Mark Andes, Denny Carmassi, Scott Olson and others. The band’s hits included “Crazy on You,” “Magic Man,” “Barracuda” and “What About Love?” Heart is playing 15 dates on Journey’s 2009 tour. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. KC and the Sunshine Band

    Harry Wayne Casey (aka KC) formed KC and the Sunshine Band in 1973 in Miami, Fla. Original members Casey and Richard Finch, who quickly added Jerome Smith and Robert Johnson. The band's hits included “That’s the Way (I Like It),” “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty,” “Get Down Tonight” and “Please Don’t Go.” The lineup changed a lot over the years and the current lineup has 14 members. Casey sang “Get Down Tonight” on the April 22, 2009 episode of “American Idol.” The band still performs, doing corporate gigs for companies such as IBM. (Martin Bernetti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Aerosmith

    In 1970, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, Steven Tyler, Joey Kramer and Ray Tabano formed Aerosmith in Boston. Tabano was replaced by Brad Whitford in 1971 and the band broke into the mainstream with their 1975 album, “Toys In the Attic.” Drug problems caused Perry and Whitford to leave the band in 1979 and 1981, but both returned in 1984. The band has sold 150 million albums worldwide. They hold the record for the most gold and multi-platinum albums by an American band. Their hits include “Dream On,” “Walk This Way,” “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” and “Cryin’.” The band was set to tour in 2009, but during a concert in Sturgis, S.D., Tyler fell from a catwalk on the stage, and the band was forced to cancel its tour. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. KISS

    KISS formed in New York in 1972. The original members were Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. The band is known for its distinctive makeup: The Demon (Simmons), Starchild (Stanley), Spaceman (Frehley) and Catman (Criss). The band’s hits included “Beth,” “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Detroit Rock City.” In 1977, according to a Gallup poll, KISS was the most popular band in America. The band was also known for its merchandise, which included dolls, comic books, makeup kits and more. The band’s fans were known as the KISS Army. The band’s members all released solo albums in 1978, which marked the beginning of KISS’s decline. Criss and Frehley left the band in 1982. Stanley and Simmons continue to play with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer as KISS. (Fernando Vergara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Loggins & Messina

    Jim Messina had played with Poco and Buffalo Springfield before he teamed up with singer/songwriter Kenny Loggins in 1970. The duo made six albums in the ‘70s and sold 16 million records. Their hits included “Danny’s Song” and “A Love Song.” The duo split in 1970. “Things got a bit strained,” Loggins told msnbc.com. But in 2005, the pair got back together and released a compilation album and a live album. In 2009, the duo hit the road for a tour. (Loggins & Messina, Wireimage) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Steve Miller Band

    Steve Miller formed the Steve Miller Band in 1967 in San Francisco. Miller, guitarist James Cook, bassist Lonnie Turner and drummer Tim Davis made up the original lineup, with Boz Scaggs joining soon after. Their hits included “Space Cowboy,” “Fly Like an Eagle,” “The Joker” and “Take the Money and Run.” The band’s lineup changed many times through the years and members have included “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow, Glyn Johns, Ross Valory, Les Dudek and Jim Smith, among others. The band has not released a new album since 1993’s "Wide River," but continues to tour. (www.stevemillerband.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Styx

    Styx was born in 1972 and featured members Chuck and John Panozzo, Dennis DeYoung, John Curulewski and James “J.Y.” Young. The prog rockers’ hits included “Come Sail Away,” “Lady,” “Babe” and “Renegade.” Curulewski left the band in 1975 and was replaced by Tommy Shaw. The band’s 1983 album, “Kilroy Was Here” was a concept album set in a future where playing music is forbidden. Shaw left at the end of the “Kilroy” tour, and the band fizzled. Styx reunited in 1995, but split into two different bands both using the name in 1999. After a lawsuit, DeYoung was allowed to perform as “the voice of Styx.” The actual Styx features Shaw and JY. In 2009, Styx toured with REO Speedwagon and .38 Special. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Tavares

    The Tavares brothers – Ralph, Pooch, Chubby, Butch and Tiny – started performing as kids in 1959. In 1973, they signed with Capitol Records and really crossed over in 1975. Their hits included, “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel,” “Don’t Take Away the Music” and “Whodunit.” The band recorded the Bee Gees’ “More Than a Woman” for the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack. Ralph Tavares left the group to become a court officer in New Bedford, Mass. (Tavares, Sergio Vassiliu) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Three Dog Night

    Singers Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron and Cory Wells formed Three Dog Night in 1968. Michael Allsup, Floyd Sneed, Joe Schermie and Jimmy Greenspoon comprised the rest of the band. The band’s hits included “Mama Told Me Not to Come” “Joy To the World” and “Black and White.” The band’s lineup shifted over the years with Sneed, Allsup and Schermie leaving to form their own group. The band played their final show in 1976. In 1981, they reunited for an EP that featured all the original members except Schermie. The lineup changed again throughout the ‘80s. The band still tours, playing 80 concerts a year. Founding members Wells, Hutton, Greenspoon and Allsup still play in the group. (Donald Kravitz / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. The Village People

    French composer Jacques Morali came up with the concept for the Village People in 1977. The original members included Victor Willis (police officer), Felipe Rose (American Indian chief), Randy Jones (cowboy), Glenn Hughes (biker), David Hodo (construction worker) and Alex Briley (military man). Their hits included “Macho Man,” “Go West,” “Y.M.C.A.” and “Can’t Stop the Music.” The group was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in 1979. Later members included Ray Simpson, Jeff Olson and Eric Anzalone. Founder Morali died of AIDS in 1991. (Carol Rosegg, Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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