Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Song Lyric of the Day (Paul Simon, With Insight Into Contemporary Thought Processes)

“All lies and jest

Still, a man hears what he wants to hear

And disregards the rest.”— “The Boxer,” written by American singer-songwriter Paul Simon, released by Simon and Art Garfunkel on their Bridge over Troubled Water LP (1970)

Happy birthday to Paul Simon, born 80 years ago today in Newark, NJ.

Some years ago, a late, dear friend of mine described Bob Dylan as the master poet of his generation and Simon as the master psychologist. There was more than a bit of the poet in Simon, too, but time has borne out that the Grammy-winning musician is indeed an explorer of the soul in all its rootlessness and alienation.

From “The Sound of Silence,” his first big hit with Art Garfunkel, through “American Tune,” the wistful elegy he created in the Watergate era, Simon—for all his concern about the nation’s politics—has largely preferred to comment obliquely on what’s roiling the country through meditations on what lies beneath rather than explicit protests.

Even “The Boxer,” which he admits to writing in a period of frustration over harsh criticism of his songwriting (the pugilist’s departure from the ring paralleled his half-hearted wish to exit the music scene), has come to take on a different cast. The title character “disregards” the warnings of others away from his change of life and embrace of a violent occupation, in favor of what he prefers: the “lies and jest.”

It’s not a bad forecast of what contemporary politics has become: groups refusing to listen to others, putting aside history and wiser counsels for more seductive siren calls, leaving them none the better for the experience.

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