On October 30, Paul Simon: Words & Music opens at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Commemorating the singer-songwriter’s 50 years in the music business, the exhibit gathers important artifacts from throughout the his career.
The celebration also features a collection of rare photographs, a handful of which you can see in this slideshow, proving it’s been a long road from Queens to rock-icon status.
Paul Simon, pictured here in 1943, was born in Newark, New Jersey, on October 13, 1941. About 18 months later, the family moved to New Gardens, Queens, in New York City.
Simon, pictured here in 1952, is a lifelong New York Yankees baseball fan, and the game has been inextricably linked to his recording career. The first R&B song he ever heard was “Gee” by the Crows, which came on the radio when Simon was listening to a music program that preceded a Yankees game. Later in his career, Simon would reference Yankees slugger Joe DiMaggio in the Simon & Garfunkel song “Mrs. Robinson” and feature Yankees star Mickey Mantle in his music video for “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.”
Simon, pictured here circa 1962, graduated from Queens College in 1963. His song “He Was My Brother,” which appears on Simon & Garfunkel’s debut album Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m., was written about his Queens College classmate Andrew Goodman, a civil-rights worker who was killed in Mississippi by members of the Ku Klux Klan in 1964.
Here’s a reproduction of the sheet music for 1957’s “Hey, Schoolgirl,” which was written by Tommy Graph and Jerry Landis. Also known as Simon (Landis) and Art Garfunkel (Graph), the duo’s success with “Schoolgirl” brought in enough royalties for Simon to purchase a car. “It was enough money for me to buy my first car,” he recalled. “A used ‘58 red Impala convertible with triple carbs. It was cool! It literally burned to the ground … the thing caught fire while I was in it. It was heartbreaking – to have the fire department come and tear your car apart.”
Simon as Landis, pictured here in 1957.
Simon used this passport when he traveled to England in the early 1960s, and also while on tour with Simon & Garfunkel. “After Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m. came out and it was a flop, I moved to England,” he recalled. “There was a folk scene. And I was writing. It was very easy for me to write. First of all, like when you’re that age, you don’t even know if it’s a cliché or anything. It’s not a cliché, it’s what you are. If you’re really upset by social injustice, you say, ‘Oh, this isn’t fair!’ Or if you fall in love, you’re really in love. It’s pure.”
Paul Simon in Soho circa 1975, shot by Saturday Night Live’s official photographer Edie Baskin, and used for the cover of “Still Crazy After All These Years”.
Photo: Edie Baskin
Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels conceived the video for the Graceland single “You Can Call Me Al,” featuring Steve Martin and SNL’s Chevy Chase. Chase and Martin reprised their roles in the video for the song “Proof” from Simon’s 1990 album, The Rhythm of the Saints.