The Polar Music Prize 2012 is awarded to Paul Simon. Nobody else is more deserving of the epithet of “world-class songwriter.” For five decades, Paul Simon has built bridges not only over troubled waters but over entire oceans by (re)joining the world’s continents with his music. With consummate skill, innovative arrangements and provocative lyrics that never fail to capture the currents of his age, Paul Simon has compiled a library of songs which will remain open to future generations.
Start with art
Paul Simon was born in 1941 and grew up in Queens, New York City. He began his music career in the 1950s and in the decades since has established himself as one of the most renowned popular songwriters of the 20th and 21st centuries.
While still in high school he started the duo Tom & Jerry together with Art Garfunkel. After their first minor hit “Hey, Schoolgirl” in 1957, and a short hiatus while Paul Simon focused on a solo project, the two teamed up again in the beginning of the 1960s.
Simon & Garfunkel released a total of five studio albums before they went their separate ways in 1970. Their powerful melodies, strong vocal harmonies, and Simon’s brilliant songwriting have lived on to be rediscovered by new generations of listeners and songwriters.
Simon returned to solo work with Paul Simon (January 1972), which did sell a million copies and featured the reggae-tinged Top Ten single “Mother and Child Reunion.” There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (May 1973) was another million-seller, containing the hits “Kodachrome” and “Loves Me Like a Rock.” After a 1974 live album, Simon released Still Crazy After All These Years (October 1975), which topped the charts, won the Grammy for Album of the Year, and included the number one hit “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”.
The concert in Central Park
In 1981 Simon reunited with Garfunkel again in Central Park, New York City. The concert was documented on a live album and they toured together after. They have reunited several times since. Of Paul Simons many concert appearances he is very fond of both concerts in the Park, the one with Art Garfunkel in 1981 and the one as a solo artist in 1991. In 2003, Simon & Garfunkel received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for their work.
Back to solo works
The second half of the 70’s and early 80’s saw only one Paul Simon studio album; Hearts and Bones (October 1983) but a lot of television, film and live music. Simon had a small role in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977), he hosted Saturday Night Live and his own special, released his Greatest Hits, which included the new hit; “Slip Slidin’ Away”. In 1980 he wrote the screenplay, scored and starred in One Trick Pony, a story of a journeyman rock & roller. From the soundtrack came “Late in the Evening” which became a hit.
Paul Simon experimented with songwriting styles and became interested in South African music, resulting in Graceland (August 1986), which became his biggest-selling solo album and won him another Album of the Year Grammy. Four years later, he delivered The Rhythm of the Saints (October 1990), which did for Brazilian music what Graceland had done for South African music and was another multi-platinum seller.
Simon played a free concert in Central Park in August 1991 (ten years after Simon & Garfunkel had done one) and released a live album from the show. In 1993, Warner Bros. released a box set retrospective on Simon’s career, and he undertook a tour that featured Garfunkel on their old hits, as well as covering other aspects of his career. He spent the next several years writing a stage musical, The Capeman, and released his own version of its score as Songs from the Capeman (November 1997). In 1999, Simon toured on a double bill with Bob Dylan. His next album, You’re the One, was released in October 2000. It went gold and earned a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. In 2006 Simon released Surprise, a collection of new material featuring three songs written with Brian Eno. He followed it in 2011 with So Beautiful or So What, produced by longtime collaborator Phil Ramone.
The Graceland milestone
Released in 1986, Graceland marked an important milestone in Paul Simon”s career, and acted as a, to quote William Ruhlmann, “standard against which subsequent musical experiments by major artists were measured.” It also helped to open the world’s eyes to South African music, though Paul Simon’s arrival and collaborations around the album were made highly controversial by some who saw it as interfering with the cultural boycott of South Africa due to the Apartheid regime. Despite the controversies the album was highly acclaimed and won the 1986 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, while the title track won the 1988 Grammy Award for Record of the Year.
Paul Simon cofounded the Children’s Health Fund together with Dr. Irwin Redlener. The CHF donates and staffs mobile medical vans that bring health care to poor and indigent children in urban and rural locations around the United States. Since its inception in 1986 CHF has provided over 2 million doctor/patient visits. Mr. Simon has also raised millions of dollars for worthy causes as varied as AMFAR, The Nature Conservancy, The Fund for Imprisoned Children in South Africa, and Autism Speaks.