Simon, Paul Frederic

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SIMON, PAUL FREDERIC (1941– ), U.S. pop and folk music songwriter known both for his collaboration with childhood friend Arthur ("Art") *Garfunkel and for three decades of solo albums; member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Simon was born in Newark, n.j., to Belle and Louis, a professional bassist who performed in television orchestras. The family relocated to Queens, New York, when Simon was in grade school, where he met Garfunkel. In 1957, Simon and Garfunkel were performing together as "Tom and Jerry," concerned that their real names sounded too Jewish, and recorded a minor hit song, "Hey Schoolgirl." Simon attended Queens College, where he earned a degree in English literature but spent a great deal of time on the fringes of New York's Brill Building songwriting scene. In 1964 Simon left for London to escape the insular New York folk music scene, which was dominated by Bob *Dylan. Simon maintained an antipathy to Dylan for decades, only resolving it with a joint tour in 1999. Simon and Garfunkel reunited in 1964 and helped create the wave of "folk rock" music. A version of "The Sound of Silence" from their first album, Wednesday Morning 3 a.m., with electric guitar, bass, and drums, hit No. 1 on the pop charts. They followed up with a string of albums and songs that heralded the era of politically influenced, confessional singers, including Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme (1966), and the soundtrack of the 1967 film The Graduate (starring Dustin *Hoffman and Anne Bancroft), with the multiple Grammy-winning song, "Mrs. Robinson." Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970), Simon and Garfunkel's final album together, was their biggest hit. The gospel-influenced title song presaged the 1970s' search for spiritual tranquility following the turbulent 1960s, and spent six weeks at #1. The album included three other Top-20 hits: "El Condor Pasa" (#18), "Cecilia" (#4), and "The Boxer" (#7), and won eight Grammy Awards. The duo split after that, but periodically returned to tour together, including a 2004 concert at Rome's Colosseum that drew 600,000. Simon recorded successful solo albums in the 1970s, peaking with Still Crazy After All These Years (1975), which topped the charts, won the Grammy for Album of the Year, and included his only solo No. 1 single, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." In 1986 Simon released Graceland, which brought African music into the mainstream and paid homage to rock pioneer and early influence Elvis Presley in the title track about Presley's home, Graceland. It featured South African artists and rhythms and presaged the fall of that country's apartheid regime, but was criticized for abetting the white-led government. Graceland became Simon's biggest-selling solo album, and was named the Album of the Year. By 2005, Simon had released 41 albums including reissues, and placed nine solo tunes in the Top 20. Simon and Garfunkel had placed seven songs in the Top 10, including three No. 1 hits. Like many American Jewish songwriters, Simon rarely made overt reference to his religion or background. In his 1983 album Hearts and Bones, which chronicles the breakup of his marriage to half-Jewish actress Carrie *Fisher, Simon referred to "one and one half wandering Jews." He and Garfunkel were named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, and Simon went in on his own in 2000. He received Kennedy Center Honors in 2002. Simon appeared in the 1977 Woody *Allen film Annie Hall.

[Alan D. Abbey (2nd ed.)]