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Paul Simon at DTE, 5 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Paul Simon has always been a notoriously private figure, seldom interviewed and even then reluctant to reveal much -- especially about his personal life.

That’s what makes “Paul Simon: The Life” so remarkable.

Veteran music journalist and author Robert Hilburn offers the most complete and insightful look at Simon with his 439-page tome primarily because of Simon’s own participation. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer sat with Hilburn for some 50 hours of interviews, accessing memories about his music marriages, family and, of course, his long, roller coaster relationship with childhood friend and musical partner Art Garfunkel.

The book has received plenty of critical acclaim and, of course, is conveniently timed to Simon’s Homeward Bound: The Farewell Tour, which is crisscrossing North America through September, ending with three shows in Simon’s native Madison Square Garden...

• Hilburn chose to pursue a Simon book after publishing “Johnny Cash: The Life” in 2013. “When you do a book it takes two or three years of your life, so you’ve got to find something that interests you,” Hilburn says. “Johnny Cash I had known since the Folsom Prison concert (in 1968); I thought he was a fascinating figure, larger than life. The New Yorker had an interesting articles a few years ago saying that of all the people who started in the 60s, Paul Simon was still doing the best work in the 2000s, the only person who you could take his early work and put it up against his early work. That was interesting to me -- How does that artistry come about? I wanted to use him as a case study in how artistry comes about, how you protect it against fame, wealth, marriage, divorce, drugs, fear of failure, laziness -- all those things that contribute to an artist gradually losing their drive.”

• Hilburn notes that while “people do biographies all the time without ever talking to the subject,” he did not want to do a Simon book that way. “I approached him, knowing he’s this private person, saying that, ‘If I do this book, I really want to do it about artistry. I want to tell your life story, too, but really focus on the artistry. Would you talk to me?’ I never realized he had never talked to a biographer before. At first he was reluctant -- ‘Oh, nobody cares about my life,’ which is another way of saying ‘No, I don’t want anybody to know about my life.’ It took a couple of months. I kept stressing to him what my theme was, and he read the Johnny Cash book and that helped. Finally, he said ‘OK.’”

• Getting what he wanted out of Simon was another matter, however. “The book took longer than I thought it would because it took longer to get the private stuff out of him,” Hilburn says. “It took a long time to get him to open up. I realized the whole time I talked to him that what he always wanted to talk about was the new music. The first few times we talked at his studio in Connecticut he’d only talk very generally about the past -- ‘Why does anybody care why I wrote ‘Sounds Of Silence’ Let me play you the new music!’ I had to wait ‘til he finished the album (2016’s ‘Stranger To Stranger’) to get him to really open up.”

• Though Art Garfunkel would not talk to him, doing the book also gave Hilburn deeper insight into the inner workings of Simon & Garfunkel and the complex relationship between the two men. “They’re so far apart now. If I were betting it’s 99 to one against (another reunion); You can’t rule out that one (percent), but I don’t think there’s a chance. They did do the Old Friends Tour (in 2003) that was more enjoyable for them than people thought it would be, but everything else they’ve done together has ended up pretty unhappily.”

• Hilburn predicts that despite Simon’s current farewell tour, he’ll continue to make music in the future. “He’s not leaving the field. I was with him the last days of his English tour a year or two ago and he was sitting in a hotel room complaining about touring and how tiring it was. He’s just tired. I’m sure he’s going to write more songs at some point and make an album at some point. He’s even talking about writing another Broadway musical. But the touring part is over and the rest of his life is all open. He feels a great freedom that he can do whatever he wants.”

If You Go:

• Paul Simon

• 8 p.m. Sunday, June 10.

• DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township.

• Tickets $50-$175 pavilion, $35 lawn.

• Call 313-471-7000 or visit 313Presents.com.

Web Site: www.313Presents.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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