Today Paul Simon, acclaimed solo artist and the much shorter half of Simon & Garfunkel, turns 70 years old. The singer, who just released So Beautiful or So What back in April, has been a key link in bringing African and island sounds to American pop ears with his solo work. With S&G he helped craft some of most timeless folk-pop that still manages to influence to this day. Just take a listen to "The Boxer" or "America".
Any Paul Simon education must begin with his first three solo albums after S&G, Paul Simon, There Goes Rhymin' Simon, and Still Crazy After All These Years all hold treasures beyond singles like "Kodachrome," "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," and "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard." Check out that hipster mugshot on the cover of his 1972 self-titled slab.
Houston's own Robert Ellis is big fan of Simon, and he is known to cover the man's tunes here and there. Recently for a session with music blog Aquarium Drunkard, he took on "Graceland," "Everything Put Together Falls Apart," and "I Do It For Your Love." His latest album, Photographs, has Simon's indelible stamp on it as well. For our piece on Photographs back in June, Ellis spoke on Simon with the highest reverence.
"He has done so many different things throughout his career, all of which I love in different ways," he said.
"The common thread in all his different approaches is strong songwriting and interesting choices. There are records of his that I thought I hated on first listen that end up being my favorite. My copy of Still Crazy After All These Years is probably about worn down to nothing by now from listening to it so much. I feel like every time I listen to it, I hear something new."
We can't argue with that. We collected our favorite Simon songs, sans the S&G stuff. If you need a jumping off point for them, we suggest 1968's Bookends. The cut "Old Friends" will bring your ass to tears. It very much telegraphed the duo's coming split and their later reunions in the '00s.
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Our own memories of Simon begin with reruns of Saturday Night Live from the '70s. Show impresario Lorne Michaels and Simon are great friends, and each Simon appearance on the Saturday evening staple has been special.
Simon's performance of "The Boxer" post-9/11 with New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and members of the NYPD and NYFD looking on was powerful stuff.
Here are just some of our favorite Simon tunes. Enjoy. And yes, we included "You Can Call Me Al" because this is America dammit. Click ahead for the playlist.