Who Will Remember Paul Simon?


Los Angeles

It’s been more than four decades since the rise of the singer-songwriters, and by now we can see who among them has created a body of work substantial enough to resonate well into the future. Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell seem safe bets, but what about Paul Simon, who played three shows here last week in support of his new album, "So Beautiful or So What" (Concord)?

simonJeff Fusco

The singer-songwriter performing in concert earlier this year.

By any sensible standard, Mr. Simon is a great American composer. His talent has rarely wavered, and, like "Surprise" in 2006 and "You’re the One" in 2000, "So Beautiful or So What" adds to his legacy. He was the first recipient of the Library of Congress’s Gershwin Prize for Popular Song—and that seems right.

And yet, though he’s an influence on today’s new-folk movement, young musicians and fans haven’t embraced the 69-year-old Mr. Simon with the same gusto as his few peers. Songs by Mr. Simon aren’t covered as often as those by Messrs. Cohen and Dylan and Ms. Mitchell, and there’s been no cross-generational celebration of his work to match the soundtrack of Todd Haynes’s Dylan film, "I’m Not There"; the one to Lian Lunson’s documentary "Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man"; or Herbie Hancock’s multiartist "River: The Joni Letters," which won the Best Album Grammy in 2007.

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