Graceland – Paul Simon

The MARK’S VINTAGE VINYL page features something from Mark’s collection of recordings from over the years. Most of it is on vinyl – hence the name – though there will be a few entries from his CDs (remember those?).

Graceland, by Paul Simon

  • Seventh solo studio album by Paul Simon, released in 1986.
  • In 1984, emerging from a period in his life that was particularly difficult for him (antagonistic reunion with Art Garfunkel, commercial failure of his previous album, and divorce from Carrie Fisher), he became fascinated with music from an album called Gumboots: Accordion Jive Hits, Volume II. He tracked down the artists from the album, finding that they were based in South Africa. He traveled there in 1985 and recorded with Tao Ea Matsekha, General M. D. Shirinda and the Gaza Sisters, and the Boyoyo Boys Band. The experience revitalized his passion for music, and he returned to the U.S. ready to write again.
  • Graceland was recorded over a 9 month period. What resulted is considered a masterpiece by many, winning the 1987 Grammy award for Album of the Year, and making many lists as one of the best albums of all time (it’s #71 on Rolling Stones’ GOAT list). The song Graceland also won the Grammy for Record of the Year. In 2007, it was added to the National Recording Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important.”
  • Contributors to the album included artists Linda Ronstadt, The Everly Brothers, Los Lobos, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
  • It includes a variety of musical styles, including a cappella, zydeco, mbaqanga (South African “township jive”), as well as rock and pop.
  • Singles from the album that charted were You Can Call Me Al, Graceland, and The Boy In The Bubble. Another classic song from the album is Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, which featured vocals from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, singing in the Zulu language.
  • Simon dealt with much controversy with the album. Many accused him of breaking the cultural boycott against Apartheid. He knew of the risks before traveling to South Africa, seeking advice from others. He was supported by the United Nations Anti-Apartheid Committee, though the African National Congress protested, and blacklisted him (he was removed from the blacklist in 1987).
  • I bought the CD sometime in the early 2000s. Glad I did – it’s a Must-Have for anyone who wants to have music that made a difference. Here’s the video of You Can Call Me Al, with Chevy Chase famously handling the lead vocal.

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