THE GREATEST LINES OF… PAUL SIMON
September 27, 2018
Undoubtedly one of our all-time greatest songwriters and Paul Simon’s poetry has embedded itself in the culture like few others.
From crystal clear lyrical imagery to phrases that ring so true it’s like you’ve known them all your life, we collect five of the best.
“In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him
‘Til he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains.”
– The Boxer
Not just a powerful image, not simply deft poetry, but a sentiment that rings true to anyone who’s ever taken a literal or metaphorical punch. Which, of course, is all of us.
“We’d like to know a little bit about you for our files
We’d like to help you learn to help yourself
Look around you all you see are sympathetic eyes
Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home.”
– Mrs Robinson
For such a simple tune, ‘Mrs Robinson’ has more layers than a particularly complex onion. While the titular protagonist is unrelated to ‘The Graduate’s famous cougar (although the name was adopted at the urging of director Mike Nichols) her experiences in American politics are never more sinisterly illustrated than in the above lines. The original title? ‘Mrs Roosevelt’.
“Don’t talk of love,
But I’ve heard the words before;
It’s sleeping in my memory.
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.”
– I Am A Rock
‘I am an island’ may be a petulant response to poet John Dorre’s 17th century phrase, but Simon’s ability to add new concepts and phrases to the language is rarely more evident.
“Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America.”
Never as prolific a chronicler of American life as Springsteen, Dylan or Denver, Simon nonetheless dedicated plenty of tunes to the land of the free. This is a simple, apocryphal tale that makes you feel like you’re right in the car with them.
“Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence.”
– The Sound of Silence
Proving, if it were needed, that Simon can do the powerful as well as the personal, this is an astonishingly ubiquitous patch in the American quilt, capable of soundtracking everything from 9/11 memorials to Ben Affleck’s dawning realisation that ‘Batman vs. Superman’ is not a good film.
‘In The Blue Light’ is out now.
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