Celebrating 50 years of performing, writing and contributing to our
mental psyche, Paul Simon recently spent three hours, 180 minutes,
to help elaborate for a new exhibit at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame. There will be a small piece of this exhibit shown at the
Cuyahoga Community College (CCC), sponsored by the R and R Hall.
Paul Simon was inaugurated into the R & R Hall of Fame when he
was part of the duo of Simon and Garfunkel, then later he was doubly
awarded, as a solo artist of majestic proportions.
The curator/archivist, Karen Herman said Paul Simon was very
generous with his time, completely answering the interview questions
expanding on them and allowing the entire tape to be included in the
What will you see there?
Here are several of the 100 new items that interested me and captured
1. A 1957 hand written letter from Art Garfunkel to Paul Simon, while
he was away at summer camp. Who out there knew they were friends
from such a young age? There is a postmarked envelope and personal
letter with messages in Art’s young handwriting to his friend. This life-
long friendship was ‘news’ to me. I knew they collaborated and sang
together as Simon and Garfunkel, but did not know they both attended
prep school and were close through all these years.
2. The first guitar that Paul ever owned. This is an acoustical guitar
made by “Stadium.”
3. The lyrics written in his own hand of his best-selling song, “The Boxer.”
The CCC has many other parts of the special exhibit about the writing of
this famous song. There was an interesting ‘tid bit’ that when Paul was
writing the song, he inserted the vocal bridge of, “Lie-la-lie” originally
and fully intending to substitute using words, adding them later. Once
he completed the passage, it ‘stuck,’ remaining in the song. Paul left
the song as is, after practicing with Art and going ahead with recording
the bridge within the song. (I am wondering, is this how we got that
‘riff’ or ‘bridge’ in the song, Mrs. Robinson, that goes “Coo, coo, ka chu?”)
4. Photographs abound in the exhibit. Personal ones, like his sweet but
serious face as a toddler in 1943.
5. Did you know Paul had enrolled as a DRAMA student (not Music!)
at the Queen’s College in New York City, NY? I studied this photograph
of Paul’s college sophomore year, picturing him as a dramatic actor,
seeing him as one who may have made Robert DeNiro or Dustin Hoffman
6. I have more than 3 two-sided 45 records, including Sound of Silence,
Only Living Boy in New York, Cecilia, Bridge over Troubled Water, The
Boxer and Mrs. Robinson. The only one on exhibit at the R & R Hall of
Fame is, “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard.”
I ponder donating my 45’s… naw!
7. Paul’s Grammy Records, all are on display. Donated to the R & R
instead of having them collect dust on shelves or be displayed in his
home set of cases.
7. The notes, handwritten on a notepad with the lyrics and sound
development for his album, “Graceland.” In this interview, Paul gave
us insight into his own personal writing style. He always writes his
songs music first. This surprised me, when Paul shared this processing
information of songwriting. I pictured his writing his lyrics first. They
are so poetic and meaningful, one could then imagine trying to place
the piano or instrumentals into the pieces. He also shared that he does
not always put his ‘best material’ into the first line of his songs. He feels
it is important to ‘build the drama and meaning’ as the song progresses.
By the way, Paul Simon’s unique musical combination of South African
and Zulu-Western, along with including Zydeco and Tex-Mex sound
influences, made his album an international success. The voices of many
friends appear on tracks in this album, including the Everly Brothers
on the title track, “Graceland.”
Female singing artist, Linda Ronstadt, performed with Paul Simon in
the lovely song, “Under African Skies.” The controversy behind this
album brought attention to our united stand against apartheid with him.
The part of the installation of Paul Simon’s body of musical artistry
which will travel, is going from major city to city. This will come to
museums and other public viewing areas, which will include an
admission charge, going back towards the Cleveland’s upkeep of their
entire building that embodies almost all genres of music, which have
had influences on each level, including rock and roll. There are so
many international exhibits, which I would recommend taking more
than one day to view. Paul Simon’s exhibit alone is considered to
need half an hour to 45 minutes to listen and absorb the information
given. As far as the CCC exhibit, Songwriters and musicians may be
happy to study the details of one song, “The Boxer.” There are images
of New York, the tickets for performances, the notes and personal
memorabilia attached to this iconic legend of a man, Paul Simon.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit will cover 1500 square feet.