Paul Simon's music takes meandering spiritual journey
Paul Simon says there's always been a spiritual dimension to his music. But the overt religious references in his most recent album, So Beautiful or So What, surprised even him. There are songs about God, angels, creation, pilgrimage, prayer and the afterlife.
Simon says the religious themes were not intentionalhe does not describe himself as religious. But in an interview with the PBS program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, he said the spiritual realm fascinates him.
I think it's a part of my thoughts on a fairly regular basis," he said. I think of it more as spiritual feeling. It's something that I recognize in myself and that I enjoy, and I don't quite understand it."
Simon may not understand it, but he's been writing and singing a lot about it, and that has generated attention. One Irish blogger suggested So Beautiful or So What could be the best Christian album of 2011. Sojourners' Cathleen Falsani, an evangelical who writes frequently about religion and pop culture, called it one of the most memorable collections of spiritual musical musings" in recent memory.
It's a stunningly beautiful ... album, and he's a great surprise to me and frankly a huge blessing," Falsani said.
During a career that has spanned half a century, Simon has received numerous awards, including 12 Grammys. His first Grammy came in 1968 for best contemporary vocal duo, along with his musical partner Art Garfunkel. Their 1970 Grammy-winning song Bridge Over Troubled Water was influenced by gospel music.
Simon comes from a Jewish background. I was raised to a degree enough to be bar mitzvahed and have that much Jewish education, although I had no interest. None," he said.
Now at 70, he said he has many questions about God. In his song, The Afterlife, he speculates about what happens after death. He imagines waiting in line, like at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
As the chorus goes: You got to fill out a form first and then you wait in the line."
But there's a serious aspect as well, as the song continues: