I often think I was born out of my time… not ahead of it, more behind it, which is why when my peers were expressing their angst through Joy Division I was finding meaning through Paul Simon, 80 years young today.
As the youngest of three boys with a five and eight year gap between us my early influences were The Beatles, The Stones, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Pink Floyd, Heavy Metal… and Simon & Garfunkel.
And as a gangly shy adolescent I find solace in the longing, introverted, wanderer music of Paul Simon… I still do.
Now there have been rockier, wilder concerts (The Killers, The Proclaimers), equally as iconic singers (David Bowie). and more celebrated venues (OneRepublic in Red Rocks, Colorado) but there have been no more rewarding gigs than Paul Simon on his farewell tour which touched down in Dublin.
So how does your favourite Travel blog mark the 80th birthday of the Poet Laureate of Pop?
Well, by shining a light on the places Rhymin’ Simon loved the most and whose musical influences burst out in his timeless songs.
Apple of his eye
The Boxer is a plaintive exploration of down on your luck New York life which includes a reference to the ‘whores on 7th Avenue’.
Simon told the story at a concert of a fan who told him she would sing the song to her child only she changed the words to ‘toy stores’.
There’s something quite playful too about the 59th Street Bridge Song and I referenced it too on my route to the RDS for that 2019 concert.
You’ll find, in truth. New York references in numerous Simon and Simon & Garfunkel songs, some with NY in the title as in The Only Living Boy In New York and the Statue of Liberty in my own favourite, American Tune.
South Africa: Now, how many of us, hand on heart can say that they knew much South African music before Paul Simon introduced it to a Western audience with his seminal album Graceland.
Of course none of us outside of South Africa knew of Ladysmith Black Mombasa either… but once heard never forgotten.
Simon also opened up the joy of South Africa at a time when understandably we associated the country with injustice, bigotry and hopelessness.
Brazil: And once Simon had got on a roll (or a rock’n’roll if you like) he was off to South America.
Who can forget those huge drums on The Obvious Child. Nothing obvious though about the drummers’ talent or Simon’s songwriting.
And finally in an English train station
Widnes, England: And, of course, unless you’re a Rugby League fan, you’ll never have been to Widnes in Merseyside.
Unless you’re a budding New York musician (Paul Simon) who was feeling homesick here and penned the classic Homeward Bound. There is a plaque there now.
Or if you’re another budding wordsmith, en route to Liverpool from Scotland (you have to wait here for the next connection) to take the next rung in his celebrated writing career.
But that’s another story.
Happy Birthday Paul Simon, 80 years young today.