Paul Simon Ellen Willis - Essay

Ellen Willis

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The first pop performers to straddle the generation gap were Simon and Garfunkel…. Paul Simon (he writes the songs; Art Garfunkel arranges them) became a "rock poet," dealing with such non-cliché subjects as the soullessness of commercial society and man's inability to communicate. This appealed to kids who hadn't read much modern poetry but knew what it was supposed to be about, or were over impressed with their own nascent Weltschmerz, or both. As for parents, they could feel at ease because the catchwords were familiar; they had read "Dover Beach" and "Richard Cory," and maybe even "The Waste Land," in school. And it was reassuring that two bona-fide alienated young rock poets wanted most of all to communicate, not to spit in their eye. (p. 179)

S. & G.'s first hit single, "The Sounds of Silence," was a re-release, with a superimposed rock beat, of a song originally included in their folk album "Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M." … I liked that record in spite of its ersatz protest, which it—well, communicated, even though the dubbed-in drums happily obscured most of the lyrics. Perhaps it was this unintended irony that saved the song; perhaps it was the melody. In any case, the over-all effect was mysterious and moving. But the songs that followed were just arty bores. The plebeian beat disappeared in favor of lush, gutless arrangements that ruined Simon's better-than-average melodies and emphasized his...

(The entire section is 508 words.)