Paul Simon, Collaboration vs. Apartheid

I recall when I attended community college in 1972 that I had protested against apartheid in South Africa. We wrote a petition to Polaroid against the use of their instant cameras as the photography medium for black South African inter-country passports. I bitterly opposed the suppression of rights in that country. Eventually apartheid was abolished.

Paul Simon faced controversy for seemingly breaking the cultural boycott imposed by the rest of the world against South Africa because of its policy of apartheid. In addition, some critics viewed Graceland as an exploitive appropriation of their culture. Following its completion, Simon toured alongside South African musicians, combining the music of Graceland and their own music.

My interest in this period of Paul Simon’s discography was reawakened when I saw CBS Sunday Morning. I was overjoyed to see Paul Simon’s world music instrument collection.

I listened several times to the 25th anniversary remastering of Graceland and decided to dive deeper with the Paul Simon documentary, Paul Simon: Under African Skies which examines multiples sides of the controversy that occurred. It has great concert footage and helps us to see the true common bond music and friendship can achieve.

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The Wonder of You: Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Ever since we visited Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee last year I have a newfound respect for Elvis Presley. He is the man who changed the course of popular music as the biggest selling solo artist in music history (having sold an astonishing one billion records worldwide!).

Elvis Presley (1958), Credit: Elvis Presley Enterprises

A new Elvis Presley Album, The Wonder Of You: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will be released October 21 On Sony Music’s Legacy Recordings. The new album features powerful Elvis vocal performances with brand-new orchestral accompaniment.

Following on from the 2015 release of the chart-topping Sony Music Legacy Recordings album “If I Can Dream,” which sold in excess of a million units in the United Kingdom and Europe and a scheduled follow-up album titled “The Wonder of You: Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,” comes the announcement of the world exclusive live concert experience featuring Elvis Presley on the big screen and backed by a full symphony orchestra for a ten date arena tour in Europe in May 2017.(with a very special personal appearance by Priscilla Presley) The European dates will follow hot on the heels of six arena concerts in the United Kingdom in November 2016, which are all set to be sold out.

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TRACK LISTING

A Big Hunk O’ Love
I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby
Suspicious Minds
Don’t
I Just Can’t Help Believin’
Just Pretend
Love Letters
Amazing Grace
Starting Today
Kentucky Rain
Memories
Let It Be Me
Always On My Mind
The Wonder Of You
BONUS TRACK:
Just Pretend [duet with Helene Fischer]

Our Musical Journey to Tennessee: Part 1 – Memphis, Home of the Blues, Birthplace to Rock ‘N’ Roll

July was an action packed music month for us. The month started with our vacation trip to Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee. Stay tuned for other music posts about more music events we experienced in July.

I brought along an essential music book to read on the plane, Mystery Train (Sixth Edition) by authoritative music journalist, Greil Marcus. The synergy of this book fit perfect with the music mission. The first chapter was about Harmonica Frank, 1951 (the year of my birth), Sam Phillips and Sun Studio. The book set the stage for the first leg of the music journey, Memphis. There was also a chapter about Elvis Presley but more about the King of Rock and Roll in Memphis later in this saga. 🙂

The path of American music discovery

A major goal in the music of our heart has been to visit the four homes (birthplaces) of American music, blues, country, jazz and rock n roll. We had previously visited the birthplace of jazz, New Orléans, Louisiana where we saw Preservation Hall on St. Peters Street.

We journeyed first to Memphis, Tennessee to learn more about the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock n roll. We stayed at the Hampton Inn at 175 Peabody Place a half block away from Beale Street.

The music on Beale Street spirited us out of the  hotel and around the block like a pied piper. We saw two blocks of motorcycles lining the pedestrian thoroughfare.

Bikes on Beale

“I’m walking in Memphis, Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale” Marc Cohn ©Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Beale Street is a majestic street. We took note of B.B. Kings Blues Club at the top of Beale. We decided to have dinner and catch a show there the next night. We had to pay our respects to the King of the Blues.

From the 1920s to the 1940s, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Memphis Minnie, B. B. King, Rufus Thomas, Rosco Gordon and other blues and jazz legends played on Beale Street and helped develop the style known as Memphis Blues. As a young man, B. B. King was billed as “the Beale Street Blues Boy”.

We had a fantastic dinner at the Flying Fish the first night. It was rated 4.5 stars. The fish was deeeelicious as my great-nephew Blake loves to say 🙂

The next day we signed up for a day tour of Memphis at the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau. We had a wonderful tour guide. Our first stop was Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland. I kept hearing the song, “Graceland” by Paul Simon in my head as we drove to the tourist attraction.

Graceland was a sight to behold. What knocked me out the most about Elvis’s estate was The Jungle Room and the sheer amount of awards he received in his lifetime for music and movies. Truly we were witnessing the King of Rock N Roll’s palace. What an honor it was to see it all.

The next stop on the Memphis tour was Sun Studio. A momentous place where Sam Phillips recorded, Howlin Wolf, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. We didn’t take the studio tour as the place was mobbed. We looked around, took some pictures, bought some souvenirs and got back on the shuttle. Finally got to witness the birthplace of rock n roll.

(RoadTripSports.com photo by Kendall Webb)

I preordered the book that Peter Guralnick has been writing about Sam Phillips for 25 years. My goal is to learn more about Sam Phillips from his close friend.  Peter Guralnick is the definitive Memphis music historian. I can’t wait to get back to Memphis and continue the music discovery.

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Nashville Skyline  will be Part 2, stay tuned….

Paul Simon, Under African Skies

Image via Wikipedia

I love how monumental Paul Simon’s Graceland recording has become in  cementing and furthering the ties of American popular music with the syncopated rhythms of South Africa. Paul Simon and the musicians of South Africa have forged an indelible common bond that is strengthened by the 25th anniversary  celebration of a very special concert and music recording experience in South Africa.

The story of the making of Graceland, and the controversy created when Paul Simon went to South Africa to record with local artists, is told in “Under African Skies,” the new full-length documentary by two-time Emmy and Peabody Award winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger (“Brother’s Keeper,” “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,” the West Memphis Three/”Paradise Lost” trilogy) and producers@radical.media and A&E IndieFilms.

I urge you to visit Paul Simon’s Graceland page here. Discover more about this wonderful achievement in music sociological and cultural circles.

Watch the official film trailer here. I can’t wait to witness this heartwarming, engaging film on the big screen!

Under African Skies film poster

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