“Paul Simon: The Life” by Robert Hilburn— The Definitive Biography

Hilburn, Robert. “Paul Simon: The Life”, Simon and Schuster, 2018.

The Definitive Biography

Amos Lassen

Robert Hilburn brings us the intimate, candid, and definitive biography written with Simon’s full participation (but without his editorial control). Simon has been a major figure in the world of music for more than fifty years and his songs speak to us about alienation, doubt, resilience, and empathy. Many of his songs have become part of our cultural consciousness. Paul Simon is a deeply private person who has resisted speaking about anything but his music and has stated that he will not write an autobiography or memoir, and he has refused to talk to biographers before Hilburn. But now Simon has opened up to Robert Hilburn and this is to become the definitive biography of Paul Simon.

Simon’s story begins in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens, where, raised by a bandleader father and schoolteacher mother, Simon grew up loving baseball and music. When he was 12, he and his best friend, Art Garfunkle fell in love with doo-wop and thus began a career that made the two into international icons, and then Simon went on to even greater artistic heights on his own. It was not always easy and beneath the fame and success were tumultuous personal and professional ups and downs. From his remarkable early success with Garfunkel to their painful split and Simon’s early hits as a solo artist and his commercial failures and the historic comeback success of Graceland and The Rhythm of the Saints to his entry into theater with The Capeman and a late-career creative resurgence, Simon has had quite a career.

During the past three years, Hilburn has conducted in-depth interviews with many of Paul Simon’s friends, family, colleagues, and others—including ex-wives Carrie Fisher and Peggy Harper, who spoke for the first time—and even penetrated the inner circle of Simon’s long-reclusive muse, Kathy Chitty. We get a deeply human account of the challenges and sacrifices of a life in music. Hilburn chronicles and documents Simon’s search for artistry and his struggle to protect that artistry against the distractions of life (fame, marriage, divorce, drugs, record company interference, rejection, and insecurity).

With this book, we are given the chance to finally understand both the man and the artist. Robert Hilburn gives us quite a story of the evolution of a kid from Queens into an international musical sensation. Here is a look into the mind and writing process of one of the finest craftsman of the American popular song.

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