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Paul Simon: A Life

3.14  ·  Rating details ·  117 ratings  ·  23 reviews
The definitive biography of legendary singer-songwriter Paul Simon.Paul Simon, one of the country's most popular musicians, has been a dynamic creative force for more than half a century. Now New York Times bestselling biographer Marc Eliot draws on extensive research and original interviews to trace the incredible life and career of this iconic musician. Along the way Eli ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Wiley (first published September 23rd 2010)
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3.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  117 ratings  ·  23 reviews


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Peter
Jun 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: music
I've read a couple of books about this guy, always searching for some genuine insight into him. This is average and adds little to my knowledge or understanding. Perhaps Paul will provide one himself soon....
Barb Steinbaugh
May 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: music
Not a bad biography of one of America's pop music songwriters. In fact, in places, I learned some new details about the life of Mr. Simon that I was previously unaware. The problem that I had as a reader was the fact that the author kept unfavorably comparing Paul Simon to Bob Dylan. It grew frustrating in the early chapters, then reared it's bias again later in the story when Paul Simon goes out on a late-career concert tour with the great Dylan. I happen to agree with the notion that Bob Dylan ...more
Ronnie Millerton
The biography is well-written and researched. It contains mostly well-known facts about the great singer-songwriter, along with a few tidbits that the average fan wouldn't otherwise know. It's balanced in terms of displaying the temperamental side of Simon. My hangup is that the author kept comparing Simon to Bob Dylan at every turn. At one point I wanted to slam the book shut and scream: Yes, we know Paul Simon isn't Bob Dylan! He's not, but he is undisputedly one of the greats in American song ...more
Nina
Aug 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Heavily detailed, this biography covers Simon’s life from his earliest years through his current solo work. His complex relationship with Art Garfunkel sounds teenaged-girlish throughout the book-they are best friends, they argue, they don’t speak, they are best friends, and the cycle continually repeats. Eliot describes Simon’s obsessive drive to create solo music that bears no resemblance to the lush harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel. It appears, throughout Eliot’s descriptions, as though Simon ...more
Kerry
Jul 07, 2011 rated it liked it
The author goes into detail to recreate the era Simon was in as his career progressed -- sometimes the detail is a bit too painstaking for my taste, but it does give a good feel for what was going on at the time. I have never been a huge Bob Dylan fan, but the author's discussion around how Simon competed with his nemesis and mentor is interesting, and has made me want to learn more about Dylan.

What's also interesting is that the author -- save his endless praise for Simon's "gorgeous fingerpic
...more
Keith Herrell
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
First of all, full disclosure: I reviewed this book earlier under an incorrect title, thanks to a mixup (my fault) in ordering from the library. That review has been deleted, I apologize to all concerned, and here is the correct review for the correct book:

Bios of entertainers are a semi-guilty pleasure of mine, and this was a good one. Generally positive but not above a few zingers (e.g., re The Sound of Silence, "Paul hated the remix but loved the success."). And re my man Woody Allen: "... im
...more
Zelda Rubin
Sep 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
This biography of one of America's greatest songwriters is beautifully written. Kind of like one of the songs by the subject of this story. There's a lot to learn in here about Simon's early failures during his earliest foray's into the music business. Some precious details about his family life from his Queens, NY upbringing. It cuts off around 2007, so it leaves off some recent history and accomplishments. An updated edition would be appreciated. What frustrates me is the way the author consta ...more
Jack Cheng
This is a terrible book. I'm not sure if there is a better biography of Simon out but this is pretty bad.

The facts are there, and if read like a long Wikipedia entry, that's fine. In fact, it reads a bit like that with track listings of albums, names of session and touring musicians and other liner note material that is not developed at all. There are other weird bits like music criticism that is quoted, then retracted by the original author. That was a waste of a page.

But the book is padded ou
...more
Monte Dutton
Mar 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
I like Paul Simon. I didn't know that much about his life. As such, reading this book was useful. I progressed slowly, even though it is a quick read, because I just took it with me when I went somewhere and might have a chance to kill some time. At home, I was slogging through a bio of well over 1,000 pages.
It's fine. It serves its purpose. The author didn't, or couldn't, interview the subject and relied on Simon's comments to other sources. It's balanced and professionally written. It isn't d
...more
Richard
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
Heavy on the People magazine gossip of failed marriages, and problematic friendships (read: Garfunkel.) Light on the musical knowledge, nothing about Simon in the studio, very little - next to nothing, really - about song writing. Not very well written - again, People level.

There are a few things to learn, here. Not many, though.

Here's from the jacket cover:

How a shoe store stockboy rose to the top...
How young Paul Simon struggled to emerge from the powerful shadow of his idol, Bob Dylan.
Paul's
...more
Steve Peifer
Jan 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
So if you are going to write a biography without the blessing or access to Paul Simon, Art, the wives and ex wives, what should you do? Since the whole success of Paul Simon rested on a fluke, that one disc jockey in Boston started playing Sound of Silence, wouldn't it be good reporting to at least give the name of that disc jockey? Maybe since the market for this is Paul Simon fans, not have an obvious factual error on page 3 which informs the reader that this is a hack who couldn't be bother t ...more
Kathryn
Dec 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Justin Hill
Jan 21, 2011 rated it liked it
A decent overview of Paul Simon's life. I was sometimes confused why the author would provide so much detail in some areas and gloss over others, but I guess those are the choices you have to make as a biographer. The focus on the music made it easy to place events in the timeline based on which album was being worked on at the time. Not the best biography I've ever read, but not the worst either. It kept my interest, but would probably be a dull read for someone less interested in the musician.
Sharon
Apr 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I've been playing through my Paul Simon piano book, and had an urge to find out more about him. I cut my teeth on Simon and Garfunkel and love Simon's song-writing, and this book helped me see why I enjoy the music so much. Eliot is obviously a fan (though not fawning), and he provides beautiful descriptions of the songs and their origins. I had no idea of the breadth of Simon's work. The book goes all the way up to 2010, so now I feel very current in my knowledge.
Elise
May 25, 2012 rated it liked it
A very quick overview of Paul Simon's life, about the depth I wanted. I wanted to know a little about his childhood and how he got into music, how he and Art got along and didn't get along, and details about his projects. I walk away satisfied and not overwhelmed. Were I doing actual research, this book would leave me disappointed. As a casual interest read for a fan, it's great.
Rick
Aug 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Enjoyable for its detail of what was happening when Paul and Art were creating folk magic. He followed through with descriptions of Graceland and Paul's mishap on Broadway. I would probably consider other Biographies before this one, if you haven't read about Paul yet.
Chuck
Oct 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting enough if you like the music of Paul and Paul & Artie. Not a page turner, but I always find it interesting to see that regardless of wealth and fame, we all struggle with our relationships, meaning and purpose as we travel through this world.
Luke
Dec 31, 2010 rated it liked it
While the book was a little heavy on Paul's music history (album release dates, factual info) and not as in-depth on Paul's creative processes, it was a good read and something I'd highly recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about one of the greatest songwriters of our time!
Saku Mantere
Aug 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
A weird reading experience, the author seems pretty dismissive about the significance of much of Simon's work. Beyond this, the book is pretty standard fare and offers an ok if not particularly insightful overview of Simon's life and career.
Don Simpson
Nov 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Quite good actually, but often seems like liner notes. Other times it reads like it's compensating for the fluff. Lots of editing/proffing problems.
Ig-88
May 27, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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Jess
Dec 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was disappointed at how little insight this book gave me into Paul Simon's thoughts or music; it provided a fairly thorough chronology of his life but not much more.
Robert
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Well written, fills in lots of my gaps on Folk/Rock history.
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