This time in music!
“Paul Simon: the life” by Robert Hilburn was one of the few books I’ve started to read but did not finish. I stopped reading about 2/3 of the way through, not because it wasn’t good but because I just lost interest in the story and I have too many other books to read.
Everyone loves Simon & Garfunkel music. I grew up hearing it on the radio and my Mom had a few vinyl albums that my brother and I would play occasionally. I had a vague memory that they broke up and Paul Simon had a solo career. Chevy Chase in the music video for “You Can Call Me Al” was about all I knew about Paul Simon in my teens since MTV was a big thing to me back then. That’s the last I really thought about him until my sons started playing Simon & Garfunkel albums.
I’m not sure how they came across it but suddenly their first albums started showing up on our MP3 player in the truck. It was probably my husband’s idea. When the boys started learning to play guitar, those were some of the first songs they learned to play. It made for a very peaceful house. When you’re learning you tend to play the same parts over and over again. Everyone has those cringing moments when their kids pick up new instruments and have to practice. I missed out on that feeling. I never minded how much they sat and played, alone or together. I never needed a radio!
The only solo album I knew of was Graceland. We picked it up at the music store one day on a whim and I loved every minute of it right from the start and still play it often. Paul Simon doesn’t make a bad song.
So when I saw this book laying on the biography table at the book store a few months ago, even though I had my allotted number of books already in my arms, I picked it up. I love biographies of famous people and I’d love to know more about Paul Simon. I wasn’t disappointed.
Reading about his early life, how he got started, his relationship with Art Garfunkel, it was all fascinating. Famous musicians acting like real people, like everyone else in the world. I think I liked it most because I could hear the songs from the albums in my head as I read. The stories behind the songs, what was going on in his life and the world that inspired them, it all merged together with the music in my head.
Something that really resonated with me, especially right now, was that he never set out to write a song about a specific thing, he wrote what was in his heart. He didn’t think, “You know..wow..that seems really important. I think I’ll write a song about it.” He just felt lyrics and poured them out, then wrote the music to match it. I loved how he brought little things he noticed into the songs. He is an artist.
I was also fascinated reading about record promotion and deals, how songs got on the radio, and how they became popular. It reminds me that we need to keep creating our art. That people know it, love it, and buy it isn’t the point at all. There’s so much beauty out there. We can’t see or hear it all. What comes to our attention isn’t the best of the best, it’s just what one record company thinks it can make money on. It’s one producer’s vision of great. The artist? Well there are millions of us out there making tons and tons of wonderful art.
Something that I’ve always wondered is why famous people tend to have so many problems. Paul Simon was no stranger to pain and suffering, mostly, it seems, brought on by his own actions. Everyone wants to be seen and heard. We spend our lives making a space for ourselves. Some of us do it in quiet ways. Some of us want to be in the limelight. We all want recognition for our efforts. Those of us that crave the limelight though…when we get it, many times it does terrible things to us. It feeds a monster and we spend our lives fighting it, knowing in our hearts that we invited the trouble. Paul Simon, from this book, seems to have fought that fight too. Once we have the fame, we want more. It’s an addiction that we self-medicate to maintain if we need to.
The truth is, even if no one had heard of Paul Simon, even if only his friends and family and the local bar had only heard his songs, he’d still be brilliant. His art is there pouring out of him, regardless of record sales and awards. The fame and the money seem to cause the problems. Or do they exaggerate the problems we already have?
I loved this bit too, speaking of his mother and how she responded to his teachers saying he was a bit of a dreamer and needed to pay more attention in class, ““I think she understood that the ones who are looking out the window are sometimes your best students, not the ones who always raise their hand and want attention,” Paul said. “I always thought that was embarrassing. I wanted attention, too, but I didn’t want to be seen as wanting it. I wanted it to come naturally, by doing something that warranted it, rather than me manipulating people to look at me.” … He wasn’t interested in being a showman; all he cared about was playing the music.”
This is how I feel about writing and the marketing crap I’m encourage to do on social media. I’d rather be quietly writing away and producing better and better posts, than creating sharable content. I don’t want to sit there with my hand up, jumping out of my seat. “Pick me! Pick me!” I want people to be interested in my art because of its qualities, not because of my marketing skills.
Another wonderful book finished and sitting in my collection! I love reading so many different kinds of books for no other reason than they look interesting. You never know what little bits you’ll find to help you on your own journey. It doesn’t matter what kind of book it is or what the subject matter is. Fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, biography, history, self-help, it really doesn’t make a difference. Every book I pick up has something in it I need and I never know what it is until I read it.
Sometimes I think I should curate my reading list a bit better, maybe put some effort into deciding which books to read and when. There is only so much time in a day and so many books out there. I can’t read them all, so maybe being a bit more picky would be more efficient. But then how do I even start to decide? That process seems so time consuming and my current system has served me well already. So I continue on my way, picking up and reading whatever comes across my path. I do have one rule about reading though. I have to like it. If I’m not liking it, if it’s not holding my interest, I move on, even if I bought it new. Books you don’t enjoy are the ultimate waste of time!
This book…it was enjoyable, very much so, but it was no longer serving me. I got what I needed. I was full, so I left the table.