Like another Paul, McCartney, Paul Simon has had a long, storied and incredibly varied career since the late 1950s. Both as part of a fairly popular duo called Simon & Garfunkel and as a solo performer who has recorded in a variety of styles, Paul Simon has become one of the most respected songwriters and performers of the rock era. It is a tribute to his ability to engage his fan base in his evolving styles that he can sell enormous numbers of tickets so far along in his career.
A native of Newark, New Jersey who grew up in New York City, Simon started working with Art Garfunkel while they were both in high school. Recording as Tom & Jerry, the duo met with little success in the 1950s.
Simon, now calling himself Jerry Landis, went on to produce other artists in the early 1960s. He sang on a cult hit, 'Motorcycle' by Tico and the Triumphs, in 1961. Eventually he began to work as a record executive.
When he found his way back into working with Art Garfunkel, they signed with Columbia Records and released an acoustic folk album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. It met with as much success as their first go-round, so Simon took off for England to record a solo album.
One day he learned that a Columbia producer had taken the acoustic track of 'The Sound of Silence' and added a Byrds and Beatles-style rhythm track, with drums, bass and jangly electric guitar. Horrors! The song shot to Number One, gave Simon & Garfunkel a gold record and changed the course of music history.
From 1965 to late 1970, Simon & Garfunkel scored 13 Top 40 hits, including seven Top Tens, three of which went to #1. The duo's popularity got Simon a gig as the soundtrack-writer for the film The Graduate, and a song from the soundtrack, 'Mrs. Robinson,' hit #1 and went gold. The song led to the first three of Simon's 12 Grammys. Now, when the duo took the stage in big auditoriums, the seats were more full of ticket holders than when they had played coffee houses.
1970 was Simon & Garfunkel's last year as a full-time team, but it was also the apex of their creative career together. The album Bridge Over Troubled Water spawned three Top Ten singles, including the 1970 Grammy Song of the Year, 'Bridge Over Troubled Water,' which spent six weeks at #1. That single and 'Cecelia' went gold. Simon and Garfunkel went solo, despite the opportunity to sell more and more tickets.
Paul Simon's solo career got off to a hot start, as 'Mother and Child Reunion' took its reggae flavor to #4. A series of hit albums and singles followed, with 'Loves Me Like a Rock' and '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover' reaching gold status. Even so, one could sense in the experimental arrangements of his songs that he was leading his fans into something bigger.
In 1986, Simon made an album with South African musicians, titled Graceland. As part of the burgeoning World Beat phenomenon, Graceland won two Grammys. The artistic merit of the experiment led Simon to dabble in Brazilian music on 1990's The Rhythm of the Saints. Now, when you have tickets to see Paul Simon, you will be getting the folk artist, the World Music artist, and the pop icon rolled into one.
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