By RANDAL C. HILL
Sixty-one years ago, two 15-year-olds from Queens, N.Y., calling themselves Tom and Jerry (since they thought people would make fun of their real names), cut a record titled Hey! Schoolgirl. The 1957 ditty managed to reach the middle of Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, then faded away, as did the Tom and Jerry name.
But Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel persisted and in 1965, found themselves at the top of Billboard with their breakthrough hit Sounds of Silence. With Simon’s
memorable melodies and timeless poetic lyrics often wrapped around
Garfunkel’s angelic but muscular voice, the two shot to stardom – then promptly split up in 1970, at the height of their fame.
Now, at age 76, the legendary Simon is embarking on his Homeward Bound Farewell Tour. He’s winding his way around North America and Europe, promising audiences “a historic evening of career-spanning hits and timeless classics.”
The final leg of his tour includes stops in Tampa, Sunrise and Orlando on Sept. 7, 8, and 11 respectively. (He wraps everything up in New York City in mid September.) The 140-minute concert features a massive video screen showing a montage of Simon’s journey through the years, a few slightly awkward dance steps, numerous solo hits and some lesser known selections.
Along the way, there’s a sprinkling of Simon and Garfunkel favorites, although wisely not Bridge over Troubled Water, a demanding major work that requires
Garfunkel’s soaring boy-soprano chops. Simon does end each show with a somber Sounds of Silence, offering it as a gentle, melancholy acoustic work rather than the familiar electrified folk-rock version.
“I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to reach the point where I’d consider bringing my performing career to a natural end,” says Simon, “Now I know.”
“It feels a little unsettling, a touch exhilarating and something of a relief. I love making music, and my voice is still strong.”
Having a top-notch backup helps to ensure a memorable event.
“My band is a tight, extraordinary group of gifted musicians,” he continues. His 16-member touring group includes a six-member chamber music ensemble and
draws from the best elements of rock, pop, folk, jazz and world music.
Simon saw his solo star rise to the stratosphere with the release of 29 enduring Top 40 discs, including Mother and Child Reunion, Kodachrome, Loves Me
Like a Rock, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Slip Slidin’ Away and Late in the Evening.
Among his 13 highly lauded LPs was Graceland, a 14-million-seller and Simon’s best-known recording. The album embraced South African township music—
urban pop that features a high-pitched, choppy guitar and a strong bass line influenced by funk, reggae, American rhythm and blues, and soul. Simon, who never avoided a new musical challenge, spent two years on Graceland, which later earned him a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
He breathes the rarified air of a few other 1960s-based music gods that include
John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan, all songsmiths whose creations—anthems, actually—have elevated popular music to an artistic level light years beyond standard rock ‘n’ roll material.
Simon is a one man Who’s Who of the recording industry, having earned 16
Grammys for his collaborative and solo works, a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame and a spot on a Time magazine list of “100 People Who Shaped the World.”
Along the way he has raised millions of dollars for a variety of worthy causes and is one of the co-founders of the Children’s Health Fund, which has helped to provide needed doctor visits to over 3 million low-income patients around the USA.
He concludes, “I am very grateful for a fulfilling career and, of course, most of all to the audiences who heard something in my music that touched their hearts.”
“I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to reach the point
where I’d consider bringing my performing career to a natural end.
Now I know.
It feels a little unsettling, a touch exhilarating and something
of a relief. I love making music, and my voice is still strong.”
Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound –
The Farewell Tour
Tampa: Sept. 7 at 8 p.m., Amalie Arena
Sunrise (near Fort Lauderdale): Sept. 8 at 8 p.m.,
The BB&T Center
Orlando: Sept. 11 at 8 p.m., Amway Center