|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Started: Sept. 2, 2011
Finished: Sept. 7, 2011 (6 days)
Where Found: Book Depot
Why Read: I love his music and the classic tunes by Simon & Garfunkel. This was a fortuitous find!
Summary: A tributary biography of singer/musician Paul Simon and his impressive catalogue of hit songs, from his start as half of the duos Tom & Jerry and the legendary Simon and Garfunkel, and his solo career to date.
Paul Simon is the subject of Marc Eliot's fan-pleasing biography: the "Jerry" to Art Garfunkel's "Tom" in the 1950s teenybopper pop genre, later forming the duo Simon and Garfunkel that recorded 5 original albums in just six years, contributed to one of the most beloved movie soundtracks ever (The Graduate), and boasts a catalogue that rivals the Beatles. After their magnum opus, Bridge Over Troubled Water, they went their separate ways, Simon releasing his 10th solo album this past year with groundbreaking tunes that introduced world beats into mainstream American pop music and Garfunkel dabbling in movies with supporting roles in Catch-22 and Carnal Knowledge and also releasing his 10th solo album in 2007.
The chronology of Simon's life is presented in a hefty, often breathless timeline with only small bursts of in-depth author commentary, which perhaps would have been more welcome than squeezing a copious amount of subject matter into a limited 300 pages. Points that matter most to readers--the recording of major albums, the inspiration and meaning of hit songs, details of his personal life--represent the meat of the biography and Eliot's strongest writing. The result is satisfying but what seems missing is a bigger picture: Simon (with and without Garfunkel)'s place in the history of American pop music. I also kept wondering what Eliot's interest was in his subject, which is rendered in a touching afterword but not threaded throughout the book. While a biographer should (and Eliot does) spotlight his subject and not himself, the connections between author and subject are somewhat removed until the end.
I recently watched the documentary The Harmony Game that explores the recording and events leading to and following the release of Bridge Over Troubled Water not long after finishing the biography and it was a fantastic companion, providing interesting insights into the album's composition, the making of an effective yet sadly controversial TV special, and a balance of both funny and touching anecdotes about the final compilation of one of the most iconic duos in American music.
As I state in my summary of the book, Eliot's biography is tributary in style and not very critical, though that doesn't mean that the author ignores or sugarcoats any bitter moments in Simon's life but definitely holds true as a fan and keeps an optimistic, if not readily enthusiastic, front, especially after Simon and Garfunkel go their separate ways. It's a pleasant read for fans of Simon and is an effective lesson in music history for the iPod generation who has yet to discover his magic.
Rank: (B)- Very Good, Recommend