cover image Paul Simon: The Life

Paul Simon: The Life

Robert Hilburn. Simon & Schuster, $30 (424p) ISBN 978-1-5011-1212-6

Music critic Hilburn (Johnny Cash: The Life) delivers an energetic and elegant biography of American singer-songwriter Paul Simon. Drawing on interviews with Simon and his family and friends—including ex-wives Carrie Fisher and Peggy Harper—Hilburn exhaustively narrates Simon’s life, from his discovery of pop music in the 1950s via disc jockey Alan Freed to Simon and Art Garfunkel’s success and contentious relationship (“Artie knew Paul wrote the songs and thus controlled the future of the pair,” according to manager Mort Lewis) and Simon’s successful solo career. Hilburn describes Simon’s artistry: his “songwriting would begin with the music... then he’d try to figure out how to express what he was feeling in words.” Though Simon often came across as controlling in the studio, according to Hilburn, he was very respectful of other musicians and their time and work, and was generous toward other musicians (he wrote a check to Claude Jeter in gratitude for Jeter’s gospel singing, which inspired “Bridge over Troubled Water”). Hilburn’s brilliant and entertaining portrait of Simon will likely be the definitive biography. Agent: Luke Janklow, Janklow & Nesbit. (May)