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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 342

Paul Simon 1941–

(Has also written under the name Paul Kane) American song-writer, musician, screenwriter.

Paul Simon has composed music since the age of fifteen. His first mature work was done on the album Wednesday Morning, 3 AM which also introduced the team of Simon and Art Garfunkel. Although it was not successful, it led the way to other works which were. And it introduced Simon's initial masterpiece "Sounds of Silence," which is about the lack of communication between people.

Simon and Garfunkel's songs of the individual's alienation and isolation in society gained popularity on the campuses of America. Simon's lyrics—intellectual, dense, but subtle and understated, reflected the tastes and emotions of college students of the 1960s. Some critics compared Simon's lyrics to the poetry of T. S. Eliot, A. E. Housman, and E. A. Robinson, while others considered his approach to his emotional material too analytical and academic. In 1967, Simon composed, and Simon and Garfunkel performed, several songs for Mike Nichols's film The Graduate, the story of a disillusioned and disoriented college graduate. In 1971, after releasing their best-selling album Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon and Garfunkel went their separate ways.

Since being on his own, Simon's music is distinctively different from that of Simon and Garfunkel. Various influences, such as reggae, gospel, and dixieland jazz, can be heard. The poetic lyrics and professionalism are still evident, but the songs have narrowed in scope to examine Simon's personal views of life and love. His latest work, One Trick Pony (the film and the soundtrack), portrays the aging rock star questioning his place in the industry today.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Simon's songs is that they appeal to more than one generation. As Josh Greenfeld has written: "Their message—one of literate protest against the pangs of youth, the pathos of old age and the matter-of-fact hypocrisies of the middle aged and the middle class in between—seems to have transcended the communications breakdown, bridged the generation gap…." It is this quality which leads critics to praise Simon as a mature artist.

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Stefan Kanfer