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Paul Frederic Simon (born October 13, 1941) is an American Jewish musician, songwriter, and producer. Simon's fame, influence, and commercial success began as part of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, formed in 1964 with musical partner Art Garfunkel. Simon wrote most of the pair's songs, including three that reached No. 1 on the U.S. singles charts: "The Sound of Silence," "Mrs. Robinson," and "Bridge Over Troubled Water." The duo split up in 1970 at the height of their popularity, and Simon began a successful solo career as a guitarist and singer-songwriter, recording three highly acclaimed albums over the next five years. In 1986, he released Graceland, an album inspired by South African township music. Simon also wrote and starred in the film One-Trick Pony (1980) and co-wrote the Broadway musical The Capeman (1998) with the poet Derek Walcott.
Simon has earned 12 Grammys for his solo and collaborative work, including the Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2001, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2006 was selected as one of the "100 People Who Shaped the World" by Time magazine. Among many other honors, Simon was the first recipient of the Library of Congress's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2007. In 1986 Simon was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music where he currently serves on the Board of Trustees.Simon was born in Newark, New Jersey. His father Louis (1916–1995) was a college professor, upright bass player, and dance bandleader who performed under the name "Lee Sims". His mother, Belle (1910–2007), was an elementary school teacher. In 1945, his family moved to the Kew Gardens Hills section of Flushing, Queens, in New York City. The musician Donald Fagen has described Simon's childhood as that of "a certain kind of New York Jew, almost a stereotype, really, to whom music and baseball are very important. I think it has to do with the parents. The parents are either immigrants or first-generation Americans who felt like outsiders, and assimilation was the key thought—they gravitated to black music and baseball looking for an alternative culture." Simon, upon hearing Fagen's description, said it "isn't far from the truth." Simon says about his childhood, "I was a ballplayer. I'd go on my bike, and I'd hustle kids in stickball." He adds that his father was a Yankees fan:
I used to listen to games with my father. He was a nice guy. Fun. Funny. Smart. He didn't play with me as much as I played with my kids. He was at work until late at night. . . Sometimes [until] two in the morning."
Simon's musical career began at Forest Hills High School after meeting Art Garfunkel when they were both 11. They performed in a production of Alice in Wonderland for their sixth grade graduation, and began singing together when they were 13, occasionally performing at school dances. Their idols were the Everly Brothers, whom they imitated in their use of close two-part harmony. Simon also developed an interest in jazz, folk and blues, especially in musical legends Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly.
Simon's first song written for himself and Garfunkel, when Simon was 12 or 13, was called "The Girl for Me," and according to Simon became the "neighborhood hit." His father wrote the words and chords on paper for the boys to use. That paper became the first officially copyrighted Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel song, and is now in the Library of Congress. In 1957, in their mid-teens, they recorded the song "Hey, Schoolgirl" under the name Tom & Jerry, given to them by their label Big Records. The single reached No. 49 on the pop charts.
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