For every imaginable situation that life throws up, there’s always a Paul Simon song that puts any possible emotion into words. Regardless of circumstances, there remains an element of relativity to be discovered within his work. Simon is behind some of the most beloved songs in existence, tracks that occupy precious memories to millions of souls. However, what are the songs that mean to most to the man himself?
Simon’s musical career began after he met his kindred spirit, Art Garfunkel, when they were both 11-years-old. Immediately, the pair hit it off, but little did they know about what would come of their fruitful partnership. This meeting was the start of a beautiful relationship that blossomed into one of the best musical duo’s of all time — and one of the most dysfunctional.
The pair have had more reunions than most bands have albums, and there’s a reason why they’ve called it a day so frequently. Naturally, divine chemistry arises when they put their issues behind them and perform together, but the tension off-stage turned their brotherhood bitter.
Simon preferred the stress-free life that came with his solo career, and he flourished after the duo disbanded. While Art Garfunkel had a more technically astute voice, Simon’s songwriting prowess is what made the partnership tick. That magnetic skill he possesses places him in the pantheon of America’s greatest musical brains and an artist whose work will live on for centuries.
For any musician, narrowing your own work down to a handful of favourites is a difficult task. Furthermore, when you’re the rightful owner of a back catalogue as robust as Simon’s, it becomes almost an arduous task, but nothing is impossible in his world.
Robert Hilburn’s must-read biography, Paul Simon – The Life, includes a no holds barred discussion with Simon about his platoon of work, and the singer graciously listed the ten tracks which mean the most to him.
Classics like ‘The Sound Of Silence’, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, and ‘Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard’ all expectedly appear in his top ten. However, Simon also finds room for deeper cuts from his repertoire like ‘The Cool, Cool River’.
“I have no idea where it came from,” Simon once said in the documentary, The Making of Bridge Over Troubled Water. “It came all of the sudden. It was one of the most shocking moments in my songwriting career. I remember thinking, ‘This is considerably better than I usually write.”
Another Simon & Garfunkel track that he finds room for is ‘The Boxer’, which he wrote at a poignant moment of his life. At the start of the duo’s career, they were lauded as the future of music, but Simon started to witness a changing of the seasons, and suddenly they’d become yesterday’s news in a blink of an eye.
“I think the song was about me: everybody’s beating me up, and I’m telling you now I’m going to go away if you don’t stop. By that time we had encountered our first criticism,” he once noted. “For the first few years, it was just pure praise.
“It took two or three years for people to realize that we weren’t strange creatures that emerged from England but just two guys from Queens who used to sing rock’n’roll. And maybe we weren’t real folkies at all! Maybe we weren’t even hippies!”
For somebody who has achieved such lofty degrees of success, Simon has been no stranger to acting as the underdog, and it’s a narrative that has followed him his entire career. He’s always succeeded against the odds and swerved the punches in a cut-throat industry. ‘The Boxer’ isn’t his most acclaimed effort or touched the masses in the same way as some of his other work, but it embodies his ferocious tenacity and unbreakable spirit.
See his full top ten below.
Paul Simon’s favourite Paul Simon songs:
- ‘The Sound of Silence’
- ‘The Boxer’
- ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’
- ‘Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard’
- ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’
- ‘Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes’
- ‘The Cool Cool River’
- ‘Darling Lorraine’
- ‘Questions For The Angels’