The Words and Music of Paul Simon
James Bennighof
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Buy *The Words and Music of Paul Simon (The Praeger Singer-Songwriter Collection)* by James Bennighof online

The Words and Music of Paul Simon (The Praeger Singer-Songwriter Collection)
James Bennighof
Praeger Publishers
224 pages
October 2007
rated 2 of 5 possible stars

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Bob Dylan has always ranked first amongst the legions of American songwriters in terms of the influence he has wielded. Lyrically he has been held up as a guitar-playing Shakespeare with a bad voice. As a cultural figure, he has always been considered at the vanguard of the '60s movement and the artist responsible for putting folk-protest music - and later an electric version of that - on the map.

But Paul Simon was the true master of the singer/songwriter genre, a profoundly gifted poet-lyricist and an instrumentalist with virtuoso-like guitar skills.

Here, as part of the Praeger Singer-Songwriter Collection that includes scholarly looks at John Lennon, David Bowie, Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen, Carole King (the book jacket lists her name as Carol, and that's a pretty unforgivable faux pas when the entire series is based on in-depth examinations of these various artists), Frank Zappa, and Stevie Wonder, professor of music theory author James Bennighof inspects and dissects the extraordinary man.

Simon's work is discussed harmonically, structurally, melodically, stylistically, even rhythmically. This neither biography nor any type of history; it reads more like a very serious textbook and probably wouldn't appeal to anyone who (presumably) didn't play guitar and/or write songs.

It is a severe and stripped-down look at Paul's work.

Excerpt about "April, Come She Will":

In the first line the melody rises from D to G while a tonic G harmony is emphasized. The second line begins higher, on C, and descends to G over a darker E minor harmony."
And so on.

This is heavy theory, and again, unless you're a musician, it probably makes no sense. The entire series is directed at the player, however, and if you're curious as to how Simon created these haunting and unique melodies and harmonic chord changes, you can find that information here.

This will give you the fixed pieces of his work - the chord sequences and how certain notes create certain intervals and how those intervals translate into setting certain moods. You'll come away with the what of his work and the when and the why, but you'll still never be able to figure out the how.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Steven Rosen, 2008

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