Paul Simon is now retired from touring, but if ever there’s an artist that deserved to put their feet up after a life on the road, it’s him. After all, he’s the man behind some of the most cherished songs in existence, tracks that occupy precious memories to millions of souls. The fans lucky enough to witness Simon’s farewell tour in 2018 went home with a smile painted on their face, and he knows all the tricks of putting on a stellar show. If there’s somebody you want to turn to for advice on this matter, it’s Paul Simon.
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. It wasn’t for another two years until they would start performing together, and the duo began to bring together their influences of groups such as The Everly Brothers, Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie. This meeting was the start of a beautiful relationship that blossomed into one of the best musical partnerships of all time — and one of the most dysfunctional.
The two musicians achieved greatness as Simon & Garfunkel, but the arguments that they endured made their relationship a torturous one. His solo work is exemplary, and Simon’s knack for writing beautiful music didn’t change following the end of the partnership. A key reason for continued success, of course, is his strong work ethic. Simon isn’t just a messiah when it comes to writing, but he knows how to put on a show too. His advice for the younger generation is something that every musician should listen to, even if you’re as wildly famous as Miley Cyrus.
Cyrus has found it difficult in recent years to escape from her Disney Channel past and has tried to shake off her previous persona, with little success at times. Cyrus didn’t want to perform the hits that her fans knew her for and, instead, had a burning desire to reinvent herself as somebody new.
Paul Simon is one of her heroes, and the two have even shared the stage to perform with Billy Joel together at Madison Square Garden. When she appeared on a TV show with Simon in 2014, she told him about her battle with authenticity. This struggle led to Cyrus leaving out songs such as ‘Wrecking Ball’ from her setlist because she’d outgrown them, but veteran Simon offered her some words of advice that she’ll never forget.
“I was backstage with Paul Simon,” she explained to Howard Stern on his Sirius XM show. “He was asking me about my set, and he didn’t know any of the songs in my set. He was like, ‘You’ve gotta do the hits… For your whole show, it’s going be 90 minutes, you’re going to do one song that you like. And the rest, you wanna make sure that everyone that paid money to come and see you love it’. I think I added in ‘Wrecking Ball’ like the next day.”
Detailing more about her struggle with her material at that point in time, Cyrus added: “I started outgrowing my record, which is always the bummer of touring for a year at a time. I had a song called, like, you know, ‘I’ll never get over you.’ By the time I sang it live I was so fucking over it. My brand is authenticity… I WAS doing something genuine, but then I outgrew it, so it became kinda fake.”
You don’t last as long selling out venues the size of Paul Simon if you act selfishly and don’t prioritise the fans first. Whether he was sick and tired of hearing himself perform ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ is irrelevant. The thousands in attendance at his concert, fams who may only have one night out per year, could have poignant memories attached to the track which they are crying out to hear live and Simon believes it is the responsibility of a performer to deliver those memories.