May 19, 2023


Paul Simon gets religion (Jeffrey Salkin, 5/19/23, RNS)

Paul Simon grew up in Queens. The Simon family belonged to a synagogue, but they were not especially religious. Simon once told an NPR reporter, "I was raised to a degree, enough to be, you know, bar mitzvahed and have that much Jewish education, although I had no interest. None."

And yet, there had been glimmerings of Jewish identity in his music.

Consider  "Silent Eyes," on his 1975 album, "Still Crazy After All These Years."

Simon longs and weeps for Jerusalem, in prayer-like phrases: "She is sorrow, sorrow/She burns like a flame / And she calls my name." It envisions a time when all will be called to account -- "We shall all be called as witnesses / Each and every one / To stand before the eyes of God / And speak what was done."

So, today, Paul Simon's musical elegy has dropped. 

And, why now?

The clue comes in the first words of the new work. "I've been thinking about the great migration..."

He is not referring to a geographical migration, nor an enforced exile.

He is singing about that great migration into old age.

Paul Simon will turn 82 years old this autumn. This puts him in the upper age echelon of aging popular artists: Ringo Starr, 83; Bob Dylan, 82; Paul McCartney, 81; Carole King, 81; the Stones, all pushing 80; James Taylor, 75; Bruce Springsteen, 74.

Paul Simon epitomizes the plea of the psalmist: "Do not cast us off when we are old." At an age when many peers in his age cohort would have settled back into retirement, he is still growing creatively.

But, nevertheless, you sense a flirtation with the Angel of Death, and your thoughts turn to eternity.

Posted by at May 19, 2023 4:53 PM