Paul Simon, the iconic singer-songwriter, has had a remarkable career filled with musical successes. However, it hasn’t always been easy for him to fully appreciate his own work. Despite experiencing early radio success and the massive hit “The Sound of Silence,” Simon has revealed that he believed he had a song that surpassed it.
The Evolution of Paul Simon’s Songwriting
Paul Simon’s musical journey began in his teenage years, initially as part of the doo-wop duo Tom & Jerry with longtime singing partner Art Garfunkel. As he matured, Simon’s approach to lyric writing adapted to the changing musical landscape. When Simon and Garfunkel recorded music under their own names, they became central figures in the folk boom. It was during this time that Simon, still a young artist, penned his first major hit, “The Sound of Silence,” which climbed to the top of the charts.
A Personal and Insightful Song: “Hearts and Bones”
As Simon aged, his songwriting continued to evolve, reflecting his own personal growth. His 1983 album “Hearts and Bones” stands as a poignant exploration of his failing marriage to Carrie Fisher, characterized by introspective and heartfelt lyrics. Despite the depth and emotional resonance of the album, it was initially considered a commercial disappointment.
In a candid interview with writer Bruce Pollack in 1986, Simon expressed his belief that “Hearts and Bones” was a better song than “The Sound of Silence.” He acknowledged that while the latter had achieved tremendous popularity and had become ingrained in popular culture, he felt that “Hearts and Bones” possessed greater artistic merit.
“I wrote ‘The Sound of Silence’ when I was 21 and ‘Hearts and Bones’ is, I think, a better song.”
The Evolution of Language and Imagery
Simon’s songwriting journey extended beyond “Hearts and Bones,” and he continued to explore new linguistic and poetic avenues. In a 1990 interview with SongTalk, he discussed the evolution of his language and imagery. Simon aimed to incorporate vernacular speech into his writing while interspersing it with enriched language, creating a smooth conversational flow.
“What I was trying to learn to do was to be able to write vernacular speech and then intersperse it with enriched language. And then go back to vernacular. So the thing would go along smoothly and then some image would come out that was interesting.”
With subsequent albums like “Graceland,” Simon further refined his approach, allowing enriched language to flow naturally within the music. However, he recognized that “Hearts and Bones” represented a significant step in this artistic progression, as it showcased the deliberate blending of vernacular and enriched language.
“I think in Hearts and Bones you could feel it, that it was coming.”
The Impact on Relationships and Appreciation
The profound personal nature of “Hearts and Bones” resonated not only with Paul Simon but also with Carrie Fisher, his former spouse. Fisher acknowledged her appreciation for the songs written about their relationship, even when they portrayed her in a less flattering light.
“I do like the songs he wrote about our relationship, even when he’s insulting me, I like it very much.”