Monthly Archives: October 2011

Paul Simon: Soaring at 70

“Can you imagine us years from today?” wrote Paul Simon in “Old Friends,” from Simon & Garfunkel’s 1968 album “Bookends.” “Sharing a park bench quietly/How terribly strange to be 70.”

Terribly strange, indeed. On Oct. 13, Simon celebrated his own 70th birthday, and (whether intentionally or not) he used the same adjective as he looked back on that lyric, written more than four decades ago. “It’s strange that I wrote about it when I was 26, really strange,” he said, the day after the birthday. “Then, I was thinking about really old people, and now I don’t see it that way. I don’t look like the people I was imagining — I was imagining my grandfather, who came from another time and place. Then, I thought it was really old.”

Simon is in the midst of a particularly active period as he enters his eighth decade. In April, he released his 10th solo album, “So Beautiful or So What,” which has been acclaimed as his finest work in many years, and figures to be a presence when this year’s Grammy nominations are announced next month. He toured extensively, starting in the spring, and picks up again this week in Phoenix, with shows continuing through early December. A performance filmed in June at New York City’s Webster Hall will air this fall on PBS.

Simon also just released a new, two-disc anthology of his work titled “Songwriter,” which includes his own selections of his favorite writing, as opposed to his biggest hits. The set includes a new live version of “The Sounds of Silence” and Aretha Franklin’s performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” along with 30 more songs covering his solo career. Most intriguing, Simon has announced a box set, documentary and a 2012 tour commemorating the 25th anniversary of the “Graceland” album. He returned to South Africa for the film and will be bringing most of the original musicians on the road as he revisits this landmark project, which sold more than 14 million copies worldwide and won Grammy Awards for both Album of the Year and Record of the Year.

Yet even in the face of all of this activity, and on his first day as a septuagenarian, Simon seems most excited about a breakthrough he had with one of his new songs during a rehearsal the previous week. “I just solved the problem of ‘Love Is Eternal Sacred Light,'” he says. “It starts in a gospel tempo, and I didn’t think you were getting the story and the mood. So I put the first couple of verses into half-time. Now you can hear the words, and as it picks up, it feels exciting in a way that’s appropriate.”

Which feels like a perfect way to describe this phase of Paul Simon’s career. His continual, lifelong quest for new sounds has truly taken him somewhere different, compared with any of his peers. By always looking forward and experimenting without fear, maybe Simon has shown that 70 doesn’t have to be so strange after all.

John Mayer on Vocal Rest After Surgery

Singer/songwriter John Mayer has undergone throat surgery to remove a granuloma from just above his vocal cord.

Mayer made the announcement on his blog, revealing he is now “on complete vocal rest for a month or more”.

He writes, “It’s been a very long process in waiting to see if time was an alternative to surgery, but even given two weeks’ voice rest [along with many other approaches], there was no change for the better.”

Mayer adds, “I should be frustrated but I can’t seem to stop thinking about beautiful things… I never thought I’d be wishing I could do what I love again; I stay in at night, picking guitar parts off of records and dreaming of playing on the big stage. The only difference between now and when I was 18 is that now I have this beautiful, meaningful record waiting for me when I can sing it. “Until then, I’m taking off. Going to travel the country, look and listen.”

Scotty McCreery Makes History With No. 1 Debut on Top 200

Billboard notes a slew of achievements Scotty McCreery has pulled off with his debut LP, “Clear as Day,” not the least of which is the fact that he’s the first “American Idol” winner since Ruben Studdard (in 2003) to land a debut album at No. 1 on the Top 200 chart. The North Carolina crooner embarked on a series of high-profile promotional appearances behind his album, which sold 197,000 copies.

At age 18, McCreery is now the youngest male solo artist to debut at No. 1 on the Top 200 with a debut album. Likewise, Billboard reports that the “Trouble With Girls” singer is the first country artist to pull off the same feat.

That’s good news for “Idol,” as things were looking bleak last fall when Season 9 winner Lee DeWyze — who has since been dropped from his label — debuted at a disappointing No. 19 on the Top 200 with “Live It Up,” then plunged to No. 93 the following week.

Now we just have wait to see how this year’s “Idol” runner-up, Lauren Alaina, fares with her debut album, “Wildflower,” which was released on 10/11. It has been high on both the iTunes and Amazon best-seller lists.