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Paul Simon Becomes First Gershwin Honoree

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Paul Simon receives the Gershwin Prize from James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress

Big night last night, big night tonight.

Paul Simon was in the Great Hall last night to receive the first Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. His acceptance remarks were funny and humble.

He touched on the moment when he was first inspired to write music: He was listening to the radio as a 12-year-old, waiting for the Yankees game to come on, and filling out his line-up sheet like always. He normally had to endure the last few minutes of what he thought was on awful music program before the game would start.

One day, the announcer played a song that was a departure from the music Paul didn?t like ? even though the announcer himself professed to hating it ? and Paul has been hooked on writing ever since.

Lorne Michaels introduces Paul Simon?Saturday Night Live? creator Lorne Michaels was also funny in his introductory remarks, gently ribbing his long-time friend and across-the-hall neighbor for the last 30 years. He told a story in which Paul had sent an architect to Lorne’s summer house because Paul wanted a pool exactly like Lorne’s ? except one inch longer.

Also in attendance were Paul’s friend and former singing partner, Art Garfunkel, and music legend James Taylor. Both men and many other performers will honor Paul in concert tonight, May 23, at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C.

The show will be broadcast nationwide in high definition June 27 on PBS.

(Photos by Tony Brown)

Comments (26)

  1. You said, “One day, the announcer played a song that was a departure from the music Paul didn’t like — even though the announcer himself professed to hating it — and Paul has been hooked on writing ever since.”

    Did Paul remember what the song was?

  2. I think I’m suffering from short-term memory issues, plus the unfortunate lack of focus from being in “work mode” at the event.

    Paul mentioned how he didn’t really like that particular program or station, and was only listening because of the Yankees. A gentleman next to me nodded knowingly and said that the program was “Willy” somebody-or-other. This would have been roughly 1954 Brooklyn.

    Paul didn’t say what song or artist it was that inspired him, but that it was a genre. And here is where my memory fails: I don’t think he said it was “rock ‘n’ roll,” but perhaps R&B or something else that would have been viewed as novel at the time.

  3. Yea he mentioned R&B

  4. I think that Paul Simon is one of the greatest artists ever. And i think that he really deserves this. I wish him all the best in the world.

  5. What a great achievement for Paul Simon. He is a true legend in the music industry and most deserving of this honor.

  6. Paul Simon certainly instills something special in all of us with his music.

    I recall being mesmerized when Paul and Art reunited and performed a few songs on Letterman. I was too young at the time when they were fresh, in the 60s, to remember much or appreciate their work, but I found it an incredible experience to see the two of them perform together, with songs which were really a fabric of their time and just as valid today.

    The pool comment was hilarious. I remember when Paul hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live. They did a take on the movie Billy Jack, with Paul playing the role of Billy Jack. For some reason, that skit just sticks in my mind.

    I guess it never really struck me how much Paul has meant, not only to music, but to everyone of us who has listened to his music, whether in song or soundtrack. There certainly are legends in music, but where Paul differs is in still being active, constantly growing, and always being valid.

    If ever there was a musician who deserved such a prestigious honor, that certainly is Paul Simon.

  7. “Paul Simon Becomes First Gershwin Honoree” – this is purely a great news for a die-hard fan like me. Long live “Paul Simon”.

  8. I’m looking forward to watching the concert tonight. My nomination for next year’s recipient: James Taylor.

  9. will this amazing show be re broadcast.if so do you have any insite as to when

  10. Who was in the fabulous band? the guitar/mandolin player was first rate, naturally. The trombone player? Great. Drummer, too! Who are they? I’m embarrassed that I don’t recognize them, but….

  11. Marshall, I believe it was Paul Simon’s band, but I’ll try to check.

  12. Jay, you can go to PBS’s online program guide at this link. Select a location and then a station, then scroll down to the P’s and “Paul Simon …”

    According to that, my local station, WETA (and the concert’s producing station), will be rebroadcasting it Sunday, July 1, at 2PM.

  13. How awful that Stevie Wonder forgot the words to such a great song…kudos to those who were able to cover for him with, hopefully, few realizing it..

    Congratulations Paul…thank you for the memories!

  14. PLEASE make this concert available on CD and DVD. It will raise funds easily.
    One of the best programs on PBS!!
    Hopefully it will be repeated often.

  15. Is the CD available yet ?

  16. Nope, I did some research, but there’s no CD released yet.

  17. Anyone knows where can I find out more about Paul Simon ?

  18. Please include me as one who would love to purchase a DVD of the concert. It seems a shame that such amazing performances but such a stellar assembly of performers is lost. I could watch it again and again.

  19. “Paul Simon Becomes First Gershwin Honoreeâ€? – this is purely a great news for a die-hard fan like me. Long live “Paul Simonâ€?.

  20. Lorne Michaels is always funny. I saw him at the Adavo nightclub way back, and really enjoyed what he had to say. Funny, quirky and intelligent. It’s cool, because he doesn’t really perform anymore.

  21. I love Paul Simon. I hope the cd isn’t as bad as the sound I heard on PBS. Allison Krausse and Shawn Colvin ? You could’nt hear their voices. Some moron did’nt have the direct feed on. How can you produce something so lame for such an honor. I’m sure it sounded great in the room though. Sorry, just disappointed. Now, I can’t hear the reggae singer clear either. I’m turning it off! Love ya Paul. Sorry for crappy sound at your night.

  22. Wow, They got it together in the middle of the Song. Heard the bass guitar finally and the singer. Wow, took ya half the night. Probably, needed a Masters to get the job too.

  23. I absolutely love all the artists who have received the Gershwin award but….how can Bob Dylan not have been included!!! I’m sure Sir Paul, Paul Simon and Billy Joel would agree with me. He brought folk. pop and rock together.

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