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April 15, 2008



between this, the capeman fiasco, and having once said that Art Garfunkel was basically 'the worlds greatest cheerleader', it seems pretty certain that Simon is just a humongous asshole.



and somehow i'm not surprised. little dudes and their napoleon complexes.


It always made me wonder how Paul Simon, whos previous album prior to Graceland, Hearts And Bones was such a breathtaking flop commerically and one of the most tediously boring records I have ever heard could suddenly rebound with such an amazingly creative album such as Graceland, with "Music and Words by Paul Simon".

Africa is a great place to find influence in music, as Simon alway said he has for Graceland. But inspiration like that does NOT just suddenly come to a white pop singer in America without SOME outside help alone.

Rhythms like the ones on Graceland are very complex and it's something that just doesn't come overnight. Or even the span of a year. It takes decades of study and understanding, something I haven't heard incorporated in songs like "Still Crazy After All These Years", "Kodachrome" or even "Late In The Evening". To say nothing of anything on Hearts And Bones. They sound far too third hand.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying Paul Simon is a fake and he does have talent. But even the most talented give credit where credit is due and are humble enough to do it. To not do this is the cruelest of all insincerities. Not just to the music on Graceland, the musicians and songwriters who labored and hoped so hard on it for him, but his fans as well.

Dave the Spazz

Great story from Bob Shannon's book Behind the Hits about the early exploits of S&G:


He tipped his hand way back on "Sounds of Silence" with that line "hear my words that I might teach you"; jeez, what a blowhard.

Sleazy Martinez

I remember smelling a rat about all this way back in '86, during the enormous amount of PR Simon did (especially across UK TV and radio) about Graceland. I seem to recall him playing a copy of the original tape of South African "hits" (which was actually called Gumboots, wasn't it?) that he'd received and there, in its entirety was the music to "Boy In The Bubble". Add some impenetrable lyrics about contemporary angst in New York and hey! You've got your first track!

Thankfully, I think the album did more good than bad in getting this sort of music to a wider audience, and who really plays "Graceland" much these days?

He's great in "Annie Hall", though.


His "Outrageous" is maybe the worst song I've ever heard.

waylon solos

scandalous! but it all makes sense now. his solo career rarely impresses until graceland. even the s&g records are a bit more rough than diamonds. and i expect it explains rhythm of the saints too. thanks. i will be bulldozing all my paul simon records later;)


If I may join the pile-on -- I remember the main controversy being that he defied the boycott on South African trade in making this album. Well, that and the blatant appropriation which is just written all over it. I suppose strike 4 or 5 was the shacking up with a woman unquestionably young enough to be his daughter who's big foray into songwriting was a song in which everything is reducible to a sophomoric metaphor, except for herself.


I confess I kind of like his new album although now I suppose he somehow stole it all from someone else.

Does anyone else remember a controversy around Rhythm of the Saints? I thought he'd failed to credit the Brazilian drummers on that one.


I love the guy's music (well, most of it), including Graceland, but this has always bothered me. How can you be such a colossal dick? I'm not going to stop listening to music I like because of side things like this, but seriously, I hope the Los lobos guys do run into one of these days. No one deserves that kind of treatment, and one of the best bands ever to come out of East LA definitely shouldn't have to put up with it.


I have read here some opinions with little common sense. I am going to try to make some precisions. For example, the complexity of Graceland is far below to the Hearts Bones album, that is very, very complex technically, and with some excellent songs. Really, from the seventies, Simon has reached very high technical levels. On the other hand, it is easy to verify that most of the songs of Graceland is a mixture of American music and African music. No musical critic serious doubt of this. Have you listened to some album of pure South African music? If you listen to it, you will see that he sounds very different to Graceland. Finally, the basis of The Boy In The Bubble (that Simon recorded in South Africa) contained only the famous accordion; the final result has much more; for that reason, the accordionist appears (with justice) like co-author with Simon.


It'd be great if this gets a lot of internet publicity and suddenly he's asked about it on some TV talk show and explodes in anger (maybe even sues Berlin for defamation. . . jeez I hope those guys have SOME evidence they wrote the song). I had always kind of assumed he stole a bunch from the Africans he worked with, but Los Lobos?! Maybe more people will come forward with similar tales.


Who as it said "mediocre artists borrow, great ones steal"? I know he's a sourpuss dickhead (Lou Reed's long lost twin?) and maybe he ripped Los Lobos and others, but the guy has earned some slack, in my view. I still think his first solo album (which includes lots of experiments and collaborations--reggae to Stephan Grapelli) is about as good as "70's singer-songwriter" stuff gets. That rekkid freaking rools!


OK then. NOW, how does this controversy affect all the hype over Vampire Weekend? Do you think they did the same to get their patented "Graceland" sound?


Hasn't everyone always known he was kind of a d1ck? I guess I'm a little surprised that he stole blatantly, but 1) that album, minus the synth sounds, still sounds totally killer 2) he has a painfully beautiful voice and 3) he's written some pretty amazing songs outside of that album. I'm thinking There Goes Rhyming Simon, for one.

I'm never surprised to hear that amazing performers are assholes, I guess. I kind of assume it. Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis. Whatev. Not to justify it, just no big surprise here.


I've worked with both of them, Art is by far the bigger a-hole, possibly the worst musician I've ever dealt with.


Graceland was a family trip cassette for me and got played over and over throughout my younger years. To this day "I know what I know" rouses many a crowd for me.

Of course, that is one of the tracks that really drowned his vox in the mix and let the other folks shine.

I must say though the song "Kiko and the Lavender Moon" is by far more my favorite than anything "Shorty Napoleon" has done.


A hooker who would snort coke off Art Garfunkle's ass --- now THAT's something I'd pay for!

Less Lee

It's one thing to be an asshole musician; it's another thing to be a white guy stealing music from African culture and claiming it as your own.


Regarding the comment about Graceland rhythms and complexity/understanding. . . that's something of a crock. The rhythms in Graceland are comparitively simpler, far more "rock-like" and jubilant. "Late In The Evening" is a deft mix of Latin and fusion jazz, and the chord sequence for the "Still Crazy After All These Years" bridge far outdoes anything on "Graceland." His '75-83 period is the real gold from a technical standpoint -- think "I Do It For Your Love," or "Jonah," or "How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns." That stuff is much harder to immediately pick up than "You Can Call Me Al" or "Graceland." Give Simon credit where credit is due, he's a great songwriter (and a very idiosyncratic one).
That said, he's definitely an a-hole, as most musicians are, and I would not doubt that he would crib other people's ideas and fuse them into something his own. The way Berlin described the session is pretty similar to other stories, from other sessions throughout his career (I heard something about the "Mother And Child Reunion" musicians being mortified that they were getting paid to create something, rather than work on pre-concieved material), plus the lyrics are pretty much in line with Simon's other work. Did Los Lobos come up with the music? Probably. I don't know why they didn't get co-authorship credit, as so many others on "Graceland" did, and that makes me question it a little. But to each his own. Paul Simon is still one of the best songwriters of his generation, and Los Lobos did pretty decently for themselves. :-)


What amazes me about this thread is that so many people automatically believe Berlin. That anti-Simon stink that originated with Gracelands still lingers, eh?


But he gets to plook Edie Brickell. Doesn't that make him a hero?

B C Moore

Not to quibble, but Hearts and Bones was a brilliant album.

Graceland always bored me a bit, but the commercial failure of Hearts and Bones doesn't change the fact that it was a fantastic, overlooked album.

Simon may be a thief and an asshole, but the bulk of his pre-Graceland solo work (what there is of it) is impressive, to say the least.

M in South Africa

as a south african I know for sure that traditional african music is very very similar and does not differ much at all from band to band, let alone song to song - especially mbaquanga music (as featured on Graceland). I think he's clever for being able to commercialise it and integrate into top selling pop songs, something that african bands have never been able to do, unfortunately. If you came to south africa and heard the traditional music here, you would think every band was copying/stealing from each other! so why pick on the american? just cos he can sell more than you? hmmm, jealousy makes you nasty, los lobos!

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