Paul Simon issued a statement through his website today, saying that he will essentially retire from performance at the conclusion of his current tour. While he acknowledges that he may do the occasional benefit set, he’s coming off the road to spend more time with friends and family after a career spanning parts of six decades.
Although I was a kid during the Simon and Garfunkel era, my parents were big fans and I grew up listening to those albums. In a tenth-grade English class, the teacher put the lyrics to “Old Friends” on a poetry test. She asked us what we could tell about the speaker. I said he had sold a whole lot of albums with his friend Art Garfunkel, and that I actually liked “Hazy Shade of Winter” better. I got full credit.
Simon’s solo career has played a role in my biographical soundtrack as well — my friend Carl Groves’s mom is named Dolores, and Carl never tired of singing the lines from “Slip Slidin’ Away”: “I said ‘Doloreeeeeeeeessssss'”. I spent time learning a dumbed-down version of Steve Gadd’s signature lick from “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” When I played a couple of my own songs at a talent show at an honors conference, I said that the songs hoped they would be written by Paul Simon when they grew up.
And my family’s attachment to Simon’s work continued. Because of my mom’s MS, she didn’t get out a lot, but she and Dad did manage to make it to an S&G reunion show in Cincinnati a couple of years before the murders, and they kept the ticket stubs on the fridge.
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” was my mom’s favorite song — it was the #1 song in the country when my brother was born, and because of his congenital heart defect, our waters were troubled indeed back then. But we got through them. Years later, I’d tease Mom about liking Mike more than she liked me. After all, I’d say, “Hang On Sloopy” was the #1 song when I was born, but I never heard her raving about that. She also insisted that “Bridge” be played at her funeral. With tongue in cheek, I lobbied against that as well: “Why ruin a good song? Why not go with something terrible, like Meri Wilson’s ‘Telephone Man‘? I’d never want to hear that again either way!” But it didn’t work, and when Mom and Dad were buried, my cousin Jack was gracious enough to play a lovely version of “Bridge” on guitar.
So Paul Simon and his music have always been a part of my life, and I suspect that will always be the case. Have a happy retirement, Mr. Simon — thanks for the songs.