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Paul Simon Gets Personal in New Rolling Stone Feature

'I really do enjoy singing with Artie,' he says of Garfunkel

April 28, 2011 9:00 AM ET
Paul Simon Gets Personal in New Rolling Stone Feature
Jeff Fusco/Getty

The new issue of Rolling Stone, online and in the digital archive on Friday, features an in-depth profile of Paul Simon by Nicholas Dawidoff. The piece traces Simon's entire career – from the early days of Simon and Garfunkel through his acclaimed Graceland period to the making of his newest LP So Beautiful or So What. "One of my deficiencies is my voice sounds sincere," Simon says. "I've tried to sound ironic. I don't. I can't. Dylan, everything he sings has two meanings. He's telling you the truth and  making fun of you at the same time. I sound sincere every time. Rock & roll has a lot to do with image. If that's not your strength, people find fault with the work."

Simon and Dylan toured together in 1999, but he's still bothered by the tendency to compare the two of them. "I usually come in second," he says. "I don't like coming in second. In the very, very beginning, when we were first signed to Columbia, I really admired Dyaln's work. 'The Sound of Silence' wouldn't have been written if it weren't for Dylan. But I left that feeling around The Graduate and 'Mrs. Robinson.' They weren't folky anymore."

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Other highlights from the piece:

• His ex-wife Carrie Fisher has been writing about their ill-fated marriage for years, but Simon has no interest in dredging up details from his personal life. "I don't want to talk about Carrie," he says. "I don't mean I dislike her. I don't dislike Carrie Fisher. I just don't want to get into it. She's a writer. She's entitled to her life and to write about it as she wishes." Simon says that he's learned the benefit of keeping his private life private. "I see Eminem out there talking about his family and his kids, and I think 10 or 15 years from now he'll regret it."

Read Rolling Stone's Four-Star Review of Paul Simon's 'So Beautiful or So What'

• About a decade ago Simon began seeing a former psychiatrist who was working at a church in Baltimore. At the time Simon was suffering from pain in both hands and he was worried about his future as a musician – and suffering from horrendous self-loathing. "I really attacked myself," Simon says. "It was a brutal attack. I didn't tell anybody. It was like a voice inside me was really attacking me." The therapist told him to pretend that the voice belonged to a character he found humorous – Bugs Bunny, say – and then place the now-defused voice under his shoe. "That was a way of saying don't pay attention to yourself," Simon says. "It was good advice."

• Simon and Garfunkel cancelled a tour last summer after Garfunkel began suffering from a vocal cord condition. Simon hopes they will reschedule after Garfunkel recovers. "Truth is, I really do enjoy singing with Artie," says Simon. "There was something very emotional we were getting from the audience [on our last reunion tour]. The relationship was repaired during that tour. That tour had a big effect on people. People knew we were close friends who'd had a hurtful rift. We said, 'Life's too short.' And the symbolism kind of struck a lot of people who'd had similar struggles in their own lives."

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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