It's so easy to mock farewell tours. Classic-rock legends embark upon them every few years when alimony or back taxes call them to the road one last time — until the next time. But eventually, every artist has a tour that ends up being a farewell. Tom Petty's came last year, Prince's the year before. As the
Recently, music lovers suffered another reminder of that fact when Aretha Franklin left this world. Radio stations and websites shared all kinds of greatest hits from the self-proclaimed Queen of Soul. Her 1971 live rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" hit this writer hardest.
Revisiting that track made me regret never seeing this force of nature perform live, but it was also a wake-up call to take advantage of another musical treasure whose continued existence I've taken for granted: Paul Simon, the writer of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" himself. With his latest tour, Homeward Bound: The Farewell Tour, coming to the BB&T Center September 8, it would be wise not to sleep on this opportunity. Simon has said he will sing in public again, but this tour will presumably be the final opportunity to see him sing in this neighborhood.
Over the years, rhymin' Simon, both in his solo career and with Simon & Garfunkel, has been taken for granted. While the cults of his folk-rock singer-songwriting peers such as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen have grown, the architect of paragons of beauty like "The Sound of Silence," "Homeward Bound," and "Still Crazy After All These Years" has been relatively ignored. Maybe it's because, in a genre of rebellion, Paul Simon is one of the rock world's most wholesome and subtlest figures. It probably also didn't help that, according to the Jann Wenner biography Sticky Fingers, the publisher of Rolling Stone harbored a grudge against Simon for once pursuing the same girl as he did, and Wenner mocked him in the magazine every chance he had.
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Simon's family-friendly, low-volume ditties of quiet alienation and wistful nostalgia could bridge generations while maintaining a pep that wouldn't have the kids complaining. Graceland was the compromise cassette in my mom's station wagon when she drove us around. Though I was probably biased because the video for "You Can Call Me Al" featured the star of The Three Amigos and Fletch, I don't know how many times I heard Graceland's South African rhythms and storytelling lyricism on the way to and from school without once asking to listen to something else. His songs were as easy or as difficult to interpret as you wished them to be. There were 50 ways to read
Now 76 years old, Paul Simon has created music that's been in the public consciousness longer than a majority of the world's population has been alive. His songs have been murdered in karaoke bars; covered by the Lemonheads, Frank Sinatra, and Aretha; and used to soundtrack pivotal scenes in insanely great movies such as The Graduate and The Royal Tenenbaums. They've stood the test of time and will outlast us all.
Here's to one last chance to share a massive, arena-size room with the man who penned them.