Paul Simon: Graceland

The Songs:

  1. The Boy In The Bubble
  2. Graceland
  3. I Know What I Know
  4. Gumboots
  5. Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes
  6. You Can Call Me Al
  7. Under Africa Skies
  8. Homeless
  9. Crazy Love, Vol. II
  10. That Was Your Mother
  11. All Around The World or The Myth Of Fingerprints
  12. Homeless (Bonus Track, Demo Version)
  13. Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes (Bonus Track, Alternate Version)
  14. All Around The World or The Myth Of Fingerprints (Bonus Track, Early Version)

Personnel (Partial Listing):

  • Paul Simon – lead vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards
  • Rob Mounsey – keyboards
  • Adrian Belew – guitars
  • Bakithi Kumalo – bass
  • Steve Gadd – drums
  • Ralph MacDonald, Youssou N’Dour – percussion
  • Jon Faddis, Randy Brecker, Lew Soloff, Alan Rubin – trumpets
  • Dave Bargeron – trombone
  • Alex Foster, Lenny Pickett, Ronnie Cuber – saxophones
  • The Everly Brothers – vocals
  • Linda Ronstadt – vocals
  • The Gaza Sisters – vocals
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo – vocals
  • Los Lobos – vocals, guitars, bass, drums, saxophone

In the summer of 1986, Paul Simon released what would become his most successful solo album, Graceland. It featured an extremely wide variety of musical styles, encompassing rock, pop, soul, zydeco, South African, a cappella, and Tex-Mex. The music achieves much of its flavor by the numerous high-profile guest appearances, including Linda Ronstadt, the Everly Brothers, and Los Lobos. The horn section was made up of members from Blood, Sweat and Tears, Tower of Power, the Saturday Night Live Band, and the Blues Brothers band. Even Chevy Chase made an appearance in the memorable video for You Can Call Me Al.”

At the time of its release, Simon attracted some controversy for recording portions of the album in South Africa. Although this technically broke the U.N. cultural ban imposed on South Africa during the final years of apartheid, Simon actually was credited for highlighting the gifted South African musicians, such as bass player Bakithi Kumalo and the vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The enormous success of Graceland created a deep and lasting interest in African music and launched Ladysmith Black Mambazo to international stardom, as well as reviving the careers of African jazz musicians Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba. (Ladysmith Black Mambazo appeared with Simon at the 1987 Grammy Awards and on Saturday Night Live.) The singer Youssou N’Dour, (who plays percussion on Graceland), was included on the 1988 Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope tour, where he performed alongside Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, Sting, and Bruce Springsteen. The resulting attention to the country may actually have increased the political pressure, resulting in the collapse of apartheid in 1994.

Graceland took many of the top honors at the 1987 Grammy Awards, including Album and Record of the Year. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums, while hitting #1 in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, France, and Switzerland. It also had three singles on the Billboard Hot 100. It also was well received by critics, including the Top 100 Albums list from Rolling Stone, Time and Q Magazine.  During the ensuing tour, Simon employed many of the African musicians and recorded a concert in Zimbabwe (just across the border from South Africa) that was released on video. (Buy it here.)

Suggested Reading:

Laura Jackson. Paul Simon: The Definitive Biography.

Suggested Viewing: