Paul Simon: Genius or Wanker?

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Paul Simon: Genius or Wanker?

Genius.
35
63%
Wanker.
21
38%
 
Total votes: 56

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Velvis
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Postby Velvis » 03 Jul 2007, 16:39

Here's a little love for one of my favorite records of all time:

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Count Machuki
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Postby Count Machuki » 03 Jul 2007, 16:42

dang65 wrote:I suppose a lot of people's feelings about Graceland will depend on their feelings about cultural imperialism. Personally, I adore cultural imperialism and much of my favourite music ever is blatantly guilty of it - African Sanctus, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, 3 Mustaphas 3, Trans-Global Underground, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, a lot of Hip-Hop. I'm happy to listen to the pure and authentic stuff, but sometimes a little grafting of one "culture" onto another (i.e. one form of humanly created music onto another form of humanly created music) provides something genuinely fresh and exciting. I'd definitely include Graceland in there, especially considering what else was in the charts at that time. Still sounds good today as well.


thanks for addressing my point in an understanding way. i don't care for imperialism in any form, but some of the music could be worse. 'young americans' for example...?

at any rate, i love mingling of cultures, but hate the collision thereof, if that makes sense. the same applies for musical styles, i guess.
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Postby andymacandy » 03 Jul 2007, 16:44

Martin Carthy speaks highly of him.
Its an old story, but it does make you wonder about the claims of cultural imperialism to some small extent when it is recognised that he did have a history of nicking tunes and arrangements from others without crediting them.
On the other hand, he has made some lovely music,presumeably of his own.
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Postby Leg of lamb » 03 Jul 2007, 16:46

count machuki wrote:
Leg of lamb wrote:
count machuki wrote:to address your secondary point, organic trading of influences (elvis, the beatles, yr country example) is NOT cultural imperialism. i object to the unnatural, zombie-like grafting of an indigenous music onto a more dominant musical form.

don't force it, feel it.


Is this a moral or a musical point for you?


yes. and a political point. we don't REALLY need to get into the adorno again, do we? or the kenneth burke? or the gramsci?


I've never read any of the above and wasn't aware of having argued about their work!

collaboration and exploitation are two different things. i feel that paul simon tends towards the latter.


Seriously? I mean, that's a fairly big accusation, unless you're using the word in its weak sense (as in 'exploiting the situation for one's advantage', which I guess he probably did do). But the strong sense of exploitation implies gaining at someone else's expense. In what way did the musicians (or, more broadly, cultures) being showcased/used/whatever on Graceland suffer?
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nathan
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Postby nathan » 03 Jul 2007, 16:49

That picture of him inside the Graceland album where he is wearing the oversized sport coat with jeans makes me want to gag.

Just sayin'.


Maybe my new avatar?

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Count Machuki
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Postby Count Machuki » 03 Jul 2007, 16:52

Leg of lamb wrote:
count machuki wrote:
Leg of lamb wrote:
count machuki wrote:to address your secondary point, organic trading of influences (elvis, the beatles, yr country example) is NOT cultural imperialism. i object to the unnatural, zombie-like grafting of an indigenous music onto a more dominant musical form.

don't force it, feel it.


Is this a moral or a musical point for you?


yes. and a political point. we don't REALLY need to get into the adorno again, do we? or the kenneth burke? or the gramsci?


I've never read any of the above and wasn't aware of having argued about their work!

well, we have done here, so i was just saying. each one would be right up yr street, madam. check 'em out.


collaboration and exploitation are two different things. i feel that paul simon tends towards the latter.


Seriously? I mean, that's a fairly big accusation, unless you're using the word in its weak sense (as in 'exploiting the situation for one's advantage', which I guess he probably did do). But the strong sense of exploitation implies gaining at someone else's expense. In what way did the musicians (or, more broadly, cultures) being showcased/used/whatever on Graceland suffer?


i mean somewhere between the two. the suffering suffering part, not as true, but the cultural tradition certainly suffers, as a rich musical tradition becomes 'oh yeah, i know african music...like the lion king, right?' that's a travesty. not to mention all the musicians who pioneered that style feel none of the benefit of the supposed 'symbiotic' relationship, 'cause they never really end up breaking out, or they're dead, or the system of capital in their country dictates that they're pretty much f*cked anyway.

in any case, i think exploitation is more appropriate than collaboration. do ladysmith black mombazo get a writing credit on 'diamonds on the soles'? probably not, even if they weren't just singing some american's arrangements.
Last edited by Count Machuki on 03 Jul 2007, 16:56, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Leg of lamb » 03 Jul 2007, 16:52

Now, that's something I couldn't defend if I tried :lol:

EDIT: um, that applies to Nathan's post.
Brother Spoon wrote:I would probably enjoy this record more if it came to me in a brown paper bag filled with manure, instead of this richly illustrated disgrace to my eyes.

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Postby Count Machuki » 03 Jul 2007, 16:54

Leg of lamb wrote:Now, that's something I couldn't defend if I tried :lol:

EDIT: um, that applies to Nathan's post.


whew.

now, about art in the age of mechanical reproduction...
:twisted:
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Postby brotherlouie » 03 Jul 2007, 16:56

The thing about Graceland that gets forgotten is Simon's essay that was on the original release. He said that he was bored with music he knew well and somebody (Roy Halee?) played him something by the Indestructible Beat of Soweto (I think). He felt energised and keen again. That drive led him to work with (exploit/collaborate?, don't care) artists from South Africa (which politically he shouldn't have).

He translated the joy he found there, amidst unbearable trials, into songs. Now, it's possible that he should have paid one or two of them a little more than he did, but I suspect that Ladysmith Black Mambazo live in bigger houses now than they ever could have if Simon hadn't got involved. As a side note, Graceland came out of the blue. Who knew that Paul Simon would have that kind of success?

He translated that fire into his love for early rock and roll and contacted Los Lobos to back him (again there were questions oversongwriting royalties). He considered them to be keepers of the flame.

In short I think whatever the faults of the administration and payment behind the LP, the music he heard set a fire under him and he wrote a strong set of songs which caught on with the public who obviously heard in his music what he had heard in the stuff he'd listened to. He may have watered it down or adapted it, but that's what people do.

Adorno can eat my shit until he makes better art that Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes.

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Postby Count Machuki » 03 Jul 2007, 16:58

Adorno can eat my shit until he makes better art that Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes.


:lol:

have you been eavesdropping on me while i study?
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Postby nathan » 03 Jul 2007, 16:58

brotherlouie wrote:The thing about Graceland that gets forgotten is Simon's essay that was on the original release. He said that he was bored with music he knew well and somebody (Roy Halee?) played him something by the Indestructible Beat of Soweto (I think). He felt energised and keen again. That drive led him to work with (exploit/collaborate?, don't care) artists from South Africa (which politically he shouldn't have).

In short I think whatever the faults of the administration and payment behind the LP, the music he heard set a fire under him and he wrote a strong set of songs which caught on with the public who obviously heard in his music what he had heard in the stuff he'd listened to. He may have watered it down or adapted it, but that's what people do.

Peter Gabriel did it much better at the same time.

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Postby Leg of lamb » 03 Jul 2007, 17:00

count machuki wrote:i mean somewhere between the two. the suffering suffering part, not as true, but the cultural tradition certainly suffers, as a rich musical tradition becomes 'oh yeah, i know african music...like the lion king, right?' that's a travesty. not to mention all the musicians who pioneered that style feel none of the benefit of the supposed 'symbiotic' relationship, 'cause they never really end up breaking out, or they're dead, or the system of capital in their country dictates that they're pretty much f*cked anyway.


I do see this. I don't think I quite agree - I can't help but feel that the profile of African music would have been advanced by Graceland, in a good way - but I do see the point. However, it's arguable that no one would know fuck all about African music anyway, so at least it's given people a rough idea. And I maintain that Graceland is a fairly deft blend - not really the same as a Disneyfication, as your Lion King example would suggest. An American-popification, sure - but I see that as legitimate, as a crossing of different musical idioms which people have every right to engage in.

in any case, i think exploitation is more appropriate than collaboration. do ladysmith black mombazo get a writing credit on 'diamonds on the soles'? probably not, even if they weren't just singing some american's arrangements.


Don't know about the songwriting credits, or their royalty cheques from Graceland in general, but I do know that they're now (thanks to a handy blend of Graceland and a baked beans advert) pretty close to a household name in the UK. They have successful theatre tours. The question of how Paul Simon was renumerating his collaborators on Graceland is a fair one but, as a side issue, it can't be doubted that Ladysmith benefited.
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Postby yomptepi » 03 Jul 2007, 17:02

He is a fine songwriter, and has written many of my favourite songs. He also has a very good voice, and a great sense of harmony. I cannot imagine a situation where the man who wrote America, Old friends, 50 ways to leave your lover and Gracelands could be called anything derogatory. He is certainly one of the finest craftsmen who ever worked in popular music. Genius is an odd term, and I do not think it appropriate to Simons skills. But he is certainly one of the best at what he does.
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Postby Leg of lamb » 03 Jul 2007, 17:03

And, as another side issue, it can't be denied that Brotherlouie has articulated what I wanted to say much better already :lol:
Brother Spoon wrote:I would probably enjoy this record more if it came to me in a brown paper bag filled with manure, instead of this richly illustrated disgrace to my eyes.

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Postby Count Machuki » 03 Jul 2007, 17:04

nathan wrote:
brotherlouie wrote:The thing about Graceland that gets forgotten is Simon's essay that was on the original release. He said that he was bored with music he knew well and somebody (Roy Halee?) played him something by the Indestructible Beat of Soweto (I think). He felt energised and keen again. That drive led him to work with (exploit/collaborate?, don't care) artists from South Africa (which politically he shouldn't have).

In short I think whatever the faults of the administration and payment behind the LP, the music he heard set a fire under him and he wrote a strong set of songs which caught on with the public who obviously heard in his music what he had heard in the stuff he'd listened to. He may have watered it down or adapted it, but that's what people do.

Peter Gabriel did it much better at the same time.


and phil collins did it a few years later...

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Postby Buddha B-Rex » 03 Jul 2007, 17:10

All this talk of 'cultural imperialism' is just absurd.

Paul Simon did more to elevate the discussion about South Africa and Sun City than just about any other artist. He used his commercial 'accessibility' to further a cause he believed in, and to help musicians he deeply admired gain greater acceptance than they might have dreamed possible. Call him a 'yutz' and a 'putz'; say his music blows dead ass, but to slag him as a 'cultural imperialist' is, frankly, hyper-elitist and terminally boring.

Wiki:

Philanthropy
Simon is a proponent of music education for children. In 2003, he signed on as an official supporter of Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization that provides free musical instruments and free lessons to children in public schools throughout the U.S.A. He sits on the organization's board of directors as an honorary member.[citation needed]
Paul Simon is also a major benefactor and one of the founders of the Children's Health Project and Children's Health Fund [3] [4] which started by creating specially equipped "buses" to take medical care to children in medically underserved areas, urban and rural. Their first bus was in the impoverished South Bronx of New York City but they now operate in 12 states, including the Gulf Coast. It has expanded greatly, partnering with major hospitals, local public schools and medical schools and advocating policy for children's health and medical care.
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Postby brotherlouie » 03 Jul 2007, 17:11

Leg of lamb wrote:And, as another side issue, it can't be denied that Brotherlouie has articulated what I wanted to say much better already :lol:

:oops: Aw, shucks.

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Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 03 Jul 2007, 17:11

Stepping back into the cultural imperialism argument...

I've read all of the arguments the Count has made thus far, and while I don't completely dismiss them - I have to wonder why all the gnashing of teeth? Whose complaints are you representing? Who exactly feels exploited by Graceland?

I may be wrong here, but I'm not aware of a whole lot of acrimony on the part of the African people over it. So who exactly are you sticking up for?

Personally I'm in favor of artists exploring whatever interests them as long as they don't hurt anyone. Maybe somebody else feels like they have the right to play cultural watchdog, but I don't personally feel qualified for the job.
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Postby Velvis » 03 Jul 2007, 17:12

By the way, liking or disliking music for political reasons is utter, utter foolishness.

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Postby Sneelock » 03 Jul 2007, 17:13

deprived of a "Genius AND Wanker" option, I will opt for genius.
the guy has a gift for songwriting, that counts for something.