Music has a way of bringing back specific memories in ways that still surprise and delight me. Like that of the sense of smell, I can’t think of anything that connects points in time more clearly than that of sound, specifically music. Today’s album conjures up visions of riding in the back of a 1978 Honda Civic Hatchback up from Texas, through the mountains of Tennessee as we worked our way to Mammoth Cave National Park for our annual family reunion. Songs from musicians like Marty Robbins, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson would play on every trip but today’s album was one that connected with me in such a way that it became a part of my life, it became a part of me in a way. The album was none other than Graceland, by Paul Simon and it is a Stand Out Album.
Why This Album?
To this day, when this album plays, I have distinct memories of asking my father to play the title song as we drove through Memphis, Tennessee on the way up toward Kentucky. When he did, it was a magical moment in time as I stared out the window of the white Honda hatchback staring at the wide waters as we crossed over the Mississippi River. It is a moment frozen in time and one of the few I have held onto for the past forty years.
My Father loved Paul Simon. His favorite song, my mom once told me, was I am A Rock as he thought it was a song about him. How that could be, I would never know, but, like my favorite songs, it does sometimes feel as if our favorite artists spoke directly to us. While I enjoyed Paul Simon and his previous singing partner Art Garfunkel, it wouldn’t be until 1986 when Paul released Graceland that I would discover just how amazing an artist this man really was.
It was a music video on VH1 for a song entitled You Can Call Me Al that caught my attention. Comprised of just two people in a room, Paul Simon and funnyman Chevy Chase, the video would show Chevy singing as Paul Simon, all the while Paul would keep bringing in instrument after instrument covering the music. When I ask who the man singing was, he casually dismissed Chevy as ‘some famous impressionist’ but he was quick to point out that the real singer was the solemn diminutive man doing all the work. Instantly I was intrigued, if this famous man would let someone take credit for his music in a music video he had to be something special, so I had to know more.
Diving into my dad’s record collection I listened to anything and everything he had from Paul Simon and soon discovered he had become so much more than just the better half of a pop duo, he was an incredibly talented man who was not just a musician but also a poet in his own right. When my father finally purchased the cassette version of Graceland, I quickly made a copy and listened to it nearly every day for weeks on end. This album was comprised of songs telling about a journey with people travelling through Graceland, walking on Diamonds and being amazed by the wonders of technology, all the while pulling in African rhythms from Ladysmith Black Mambazo. It was AMAZING.
I still love this album and find myself quoting from the lyrics from time to time. One day I hope that someone tells me that I can call them Betty, boy do I have the best response ready.
The most obvious is You Can Call Me Al. This one is a classic and here is the video I mentioned above. It is pretty great.
Next up, I have to say the track That was Your Mother. Years later I would find myself traveling through Louisiana where this song could be seen everywhere I looked.
The next track I love wholeheartedly is All Around the World or The Myth of Fingerprints. It has such incredible visuals in the lyrics.
Finally, Graceland, because how could I leave that one out.
Ok, Where do I get it?
This is one album, you will never forget.
Late to the Game 7/21/2020 (Originally published 11/20/2018)
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