Tonight I read a column in the New York Times saying Paul Simon may soon retire. He spilled the news to the Times’ Jim Dwyer in a way that only the man who made us think about what we really hear amidst silence or picture the wild imagery of ‘diamonds on the soles of her shoes’ could.
He didn’t outright say he’s done. He just spoke of the many, many years he’s put into making music. He said he is disinterested in showbiz. He noted his heightened need for rest. He likened retirement to an act of courage – a chance for a man who’s been making music since age 13 to finally learn, after 61 years, if he’s more than just what he did.
He doesn’t have to be more than what he did, at least not for me. Paul Simon is one of the greatest American poets of a generation – or three. His lyrics have been inspiring me since I first started paying close attention in high school.
His words taught me how to imagine things that were so outlandish they somehow made sense.
He had an unmatched ability to cut to the core of the american spirit and struggle with songs that were somehow human while still utterly disconnected from reality.
He made magic on paper and he made it look easy.
I could re-read and analyze the meaning behind Paul Simon’s poetry for years, and I think that’s what he’s wanted from us all this time.
In another interview last week, Simon told a reporter “I truly believe the completion of the song belongs to the listener.” That’s the gift he gave us – the ability to complete, in whatever way is right for us, what he so masterfully started. His music is beautiful and it’s weird and it invites us to meld our own strangeness right alongside it.
If Paul Simon never sings or plays another note, he’s already given me more than he ever had to.