Monday, September 14, 2009

Sidebar: A Paul Simon Bibliography

As an added feature, I will occasionally add Simonabilia such as this, a list of the Paul Simon biographies I own:

Eliot, Marc: Paul Simon: A Life. John Wiley & Sons, 2010

Humphries, Patrick. Paul Simon: Still Crazy After All These Years. Doubleday, 1988

Humphries, Patrick. Bookends: The Simon and Garfunkel Story. Proteus Books, 1982

Matthew-Walker, Robert. Simon and Garfunkel. Hippocrene Books, Inc., 1984

Luftig, Stacey. The Paul Simon Companion: Four Decades of Commentary. Schirmer Books, 1997 (This great book contains a collection of articles, interviews, and reviews. Highly recommended to those already familiar with Simon's biography.)

Also, I have two books of sheet music and one of lyrics:

Simon, Paul: Lyrics: 1964-2011.  Simon and Schuster

Simon, Paul: Greatest Hits, Etc. 1977. (Contains all the songs from that album)

Songs By Paul Simon: Featured by Simon and Garfunkel- Columbia Records Artists. 1967
(Contains many S&G hits and three obscurities: I Wish You Could Be Here, Someday, One Day and You Don't Know Where Your Interest Lies. This lattermost one is on 45 b/w and alternate take of Fakin' It [I know because I own this 45]. The other two I have not yet found recordings of.)

One last note: One of the great interviewers of musicians is Paul Zollo, who has of course interviewed Simon. Although I have listed myself as "Another Paul," I am not, for the record, Paul Zollo, either! Nor am I another known-songwriting Paul such as Anka, McCartney, or Westerberg. I am, I suppose, truly only "Yet Another Paul."

If you love reading about music and musicians, or want to become a songwriter, I strongly encourage you to find Zollo's opus: Songwriters on Songwriting. Here is its Amazon page:

Hmm. In finding Zollo's book on Amazon, I have run into this new book by a James Benninghof called The Words and Music of Paul Simon, which is part of something called "The Praeger Singer-Songwriter Collection." The book came out in 2007, and covers everything up through Surprise. (This amused me... one reviewer writes: "Since no biography of Simon has as yet been published..." Really? My bookshelf begs to differ, sir! Please... see above!)

Another reviewer writes:
"Bennighof (music theory, Baylor U.) analyzes the music of singer-songwriter Paul Simon, discussing each song and album chronologically within the context of Simon's personal life and the musical and cultural setting."

I admit I have only a rudimentary musical-theory training. But first, I would like to say I found out about Mr. Benninghof's book just this minute, do not own it, and have not read it. (My birthday is coming up, though... ahem...). But let me differentiate this blog from that book anyway.

First, my approach is not biographical, although Simon's life events do come forth in his music and I will mention them when necessary. But only then. My idea here is that Simon's music is public art, not private-journal ruminations.

Second, my focus is on the lyrics and their poetic meaning, not the melodies. Yes, Simon is a supremely talented composer, more than most singer-songwriters, and of course the words and music interlace with each other. But I am interested in Simon as a poet, and while I will discuss the delivery or performance of some songs, my focus remains on the lyrics on the page.

Lastly, I am attempting to be comprehensive and write about, as my blog's title indicates, every single Simon song. I doubt that Mr. Beninghof has bothered with many of the lesser-known songs I will discuss. It does seem he is focused on the songs on the proper albums, not the more obscure songs.

So I don't think Mr. Benninghof and I are in competition, as far as that goes. As I said, once I am done with this, I would be very anxious to add Mr. Benninghof's book to my library.

If it's too expensive, what about:
Paul Simon: The Definitive Biography by Laura Jackson;
The Complete Guide to the Music of Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel by Chris Charlesworth;
The Boy in the Bubble: Biography of Paul Simon by Patrick Humphries again.

More expensive options include:
Paul Simon: A Bio-Bibliography James E. Perone is $104, plus taxes and shipping (and only 200 pages! Do you own any books that cost two a dollars a page?!)

(One last laugh: Amazon lists a copy of the magazine Playgirl as having a Paul Simon interview. But the cover, shown, says it's a Neil Simon interview. Those New York Jewish intellectual-writer types... who can tell them apart?!)

(Sorry... this is the last laugh. I just spellchecked, and this blog's spellcheck does not know the word "blog's.")

1 comment:

  1. Just thought I'd let you know I just happened across this (which, coincidentally, was posted on my daughter's birthday). A couple of points about my book, for your information: (1) My book actually follows pretty much the approach you articulate with respect to biography--it focuses on the songs (words and music), and only mentions life events when necessary. (2) You're right, I definitely do look at the music (which I would define as being much more than the melodies) in addition to (and, more importantly, in relation to) the words. (3) You're correct that I pretty much only cover the songs on the studio albums, but this does include a couple of oddities like "Thelma" and the stuff on The Paul Simon Songbook.

    Good luck with your project; there are probably about 180 or 190 songs to do . . .

    --Jim Bennighof