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April 19, 2008 9:28 AM   Subscribe

"I mean he quite literally -- and in no way do I exaggerate when I say -- [Paul Simon] stole the songs from us."

Steve Berlin of Los Lobos talks about the making of Paul Simon's triumphant 1986 comeback, Graceland, in an interview on JamBase. (via, via)
posted by Sys Rq (75 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
If that is true let it be shouted from the housetops.
posted by konolia at 9:37 AM on April 19, 2008


Is it true?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:46 AM on April 19, 2008


While there's probably some truth to the story, it still sounds like typical music industry bitching and complaining. This FPP needs a link that corroborates the allegations. Otherwise it's just "he said, she said."
posted by KokuRyu at 9:47 AM on April 19, 2008


I was just reading this in nonlogged in mode. But I had to log in to say that the google ads on the page are for "Complimentary Paul Simon Ringtones!"
posted by R. Mutt at 9:53 AM on April 19, 2008


Eh. This is the age of open source and file sharing and samples, right? Maybe Simon was an early practitioner.

But I'd like to hear Simon's side of the story. It's pretty convenient for Berlin that he doesn't have a recording of their supposed earlier version of that song so we could compare the two.
posted by pracowity at 9:54 AM on April 19, 2008


You mean he didn't steal those songs from Ladysmith Black Mambazo? It's like everything you thought you knew is wrong!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:57 AM on April 19, 2008 [14 favorites]


It mentions in the interview that, yes, Simon was forced to retroactively pay royalties to LBM.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:00 AM on April 19, 2008


Eh. This is the age of open source and file sharing and samples, right? Maybe Simon was an early practitioner.

Even in the open source software community, you don't fuck around about giving credit. I've seen what happens when someone tries to put their name on someone else's work. They get ripped a new one and no one will talk to them again; their rep is destroyed.

And songwriting credits are much, much more a bone of contention. For most working musicians, the money is very small, but the songwriting credit is your immortality. Mess with that at your peril.

If any of this is true I don't know how it's been kept so quiet.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:01 AM on April 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


(But these are different songs from the album.)
posted by Sys Rq at 10:01 AM on April 19, 2008


Noting that Simon's been forced to give credit to a bunch of other people for stuff he stole and was a total dick about it, if it isn't true it totally fits.
posted by klangklangston at 10:05 AM on April 19, 2008


(But these are different songs from the album.)

Ohhhhhhhhhh, okay.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:05 AM on April 19, 2008


I seem to recall my copy of Graceland crediting Ladysmith Black Mombazo.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:06 AM on April 19, 2008


So now someone just ha to make a lot of riffs and make CDs out of them and hire tens of lawyers to sue anyone trying to use any of the riffs.
posted by zouhair at 10:09 AM on April 19, 2008


I remember Dave Alvin talking about Los Lobos vs. Paul Simon backstage at the Pleasure Barons tour (1889 I think). The story was certainly known to LA musicians almost twenty years ago.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:13 AM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


um. 1989.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:14 AM on April 19, 2008


I saw Art Garfunkel in concert a couple of years ago. He has all the stage presence and personality of a brick of Weetabix. Not a soggy brick that maybe someone forgot about after pouring milk all over it, then getting distracted by the kids trying to use the drapes in the living room as Tarzan vines, only to return to the mush hours later. He's a nice, crisp, dry brick of Weetabix. The only times he became animated were when sharing personal stories intimating that Simon had stolen rights and credits from him to dozens of songs. He's still got nice pipes, though.
posted by zylocomotion at 10:16 AM on April 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


From the Wikipedia article on Graceland:

Coming at a time when Simon's musical career was at something of a low ebb following the disappointing public response of Hearts and Bones, the project was originally inspired by Simon's listening to a cassette of the Boyoyo Boys instrumental "Gumboots", lent to him by Heidi Berg, a singer-songwriter whom Simon was working with (and who would later become an award-winning jingle singer and writer). Simon later wrote lyrics to sing over a re-recording of the song, which became the fourth track on the album.

While in New York in the mid 1990's I met Heidi Berg, who expressed serious displeasure at not being credited by Simon for that contribution. Perhaps this Wikipedia entry years later offers some small amount of redress.
posted by Tube at 10:17 AM on April 19, 2008


Plus he totally gets to nail Edie Brickell!

Oh, wait, I guess that sort of evens things out.

see, 'cause she's a smelly hippie
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:20 AM on April 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hey, she is what she is.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:27 AM on April 19, 2008 [16 favorites]


If you know what she means. And he knows what he knows. They're perfect for each other!
posted by transona5 at 10:32 AM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Perhaps this Wikipedia entry years later offers some small amount of redress.

If wikipedia entries can really give redress, then they are totally an underused resource.
posted by Slap Factory at 10:34 AM on April 19, 2008


"[Paul Simon] stole the songs from us."

And you stole them from black people (in this case, Africans), just like the entirety of rock music. What's the big deal?
posted by fungible at 10:56 AM on April 19, 2008


I've been a big Simon fan for most of my life. It's hard to read this stuff, although I would love to hear Paul's side of the story too.
posted by danb at 10:59 AM on April 19, 2008


Berlin has been telling stories about those sessions ever since the album came out.

In a similar vein, Ry Cooder always claimed the Stones stole the "Honky Tonk Women" riff from him...the Wikipedia entry offers a small amount of ambiguous redress, but of course "citation needed"!
posted by bonefish at 11:10 AM on April 19, 2008


But can will still hold Simon responsible for "I Am a Rock"?
posted by grounded at 11:37 AM on April 19, 2008


Retroactively, he had to give songwriting credit to all the African guys he stole from that were working on it and everyone seemed to forget.

Is there any corroboration for this? If anything, I remember the publicity for Graceland making a huge deal out of Ladysmith Black Mamabazo, for example. Saying that Simon was trying to hide his collaborations with African musicians seems like saying that Natalie Cole was trying to hide that her father popularized the song "Unforgettable."
posted by lore at 11:38 AM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hmm. Interesting story.

I bought Graceland soon after it was released. It was my very first CD purchase. (Bought it along with my first CD player; player prices had finally dropped to a reasonable level.) From the very beginning, I always thought Simon made no secret that the album was a collaborative effort. I seem to recall Simon talking about collaborating with Los Lobos during his promotional appearances following release of the album. In any case, I have always known about Los Lobos' involvement with the project, and that song in particular.

I understand the complaint is that Los Lobos did not get songwriting credit or payment, but I never thought Simon tried to publicly claim all the credit for himself.

As an outsider to the business, songwriting credits are a weird thing. There is a popular story about Pink Floyd's Roger Waters never giving appropriate credit, officially or unofficially, for collaborations. When he split from PF, and David Gilmour headed up the making of A Momentary Lapse of reason, Waters mocked the abundance of songwriting credits, saying it was proof that the remaining three Floyds were much less talented than himself. Others said that the major difference was that Gilmour was simply much more forthcoming and generous with credits than Waters. One example is that during a studio jam session, hired keyboard player Jon Carin came up with a chord progression that Gilmour expanded upon to write Learning to Fly. Carin was surprised to find himself with a songwriting credit for that contribution.

So, who knows. It could be a matter of miscommunicated expectations. Obviously Los Lobos were young and possibly naive, and I have no idea what's normal in the music business, but it seems weird to go into a session like that without a clear understanding of payment and credits.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 11:44 AM on April 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


"[Paul Simon] stole the songs from us."

And you stole them from black people (in this case, Africans), just like the entirety of rock music.


Perhaps you could name some of the specific songs that Los Lobos stole from African musicians.

Saying that rock and roll was "stolen" from black people doesn't make a whole lot of sense, especially in the context of American musical history. That's like saying anyone who writes a novel stole it from the English. Rock and Roll did not spontaneously generate in a vacuum, any more than The Canterbury Tales.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:44 AM on April 19, 2008 [6 favorites]


I was working on a long post about songwriting credit, but Fuzzy Skinner seems to have covered it nicely.

If you're a musician, the take-away is this:

• "Words and Music by" doesn't mean "this person came up with every note for every instrument on their own." What it does mean is a disturbingly complex matter in the music industry.

• There may be more hard feelings in the music industry over whether two people were writing a song together, or one was merely helping with the other person's song, than over anything else.

• The only way to avoid this sort of thing is to never play a note for anyone else unless you've got a signed contract that you understand and are happy with in hand. And even then you're just lessening the likelihood of a bad time.
posted by lore at 12:07 PM on April 19, 2008


Mark Anthony Thompson made a similar accusation facetiously against Paul Simon in the song Monkeytime:

I tape the black man, so let me be
South Africa been so good to me
I smile with you on the BTV
But don’t you ever touch my Grammy


It seems Thompson's suspicions were right.
posted by jonp72 at 12:08 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


And you stole them from black people (in this case, Africans), just like the entirety of rock music. What's the big deal?

Wow, that's the stupidest thing I've heard all week. You don't know anything about Los Lobos, do you? Or music?
posted by lumpenprole at 12:09 PM on April 19, 2008


The only way to avoid this sort of thing is to never play a note for anyone else unless you've got a signed contract that you understand and are happy with in hand. And even then you're just lessening the likelihood of a bad time.

Yeah, that's for sure. One of the interesting things about this interview is Berlin talking about how naive they were. The whole 'family' thing had a real mob vibe to it.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:13 PM on April 19, 2008


And yet Vampire Weekend walks free.
posted by dw at 12:21 PM on April 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


Paul Simon stole my college sweetheart from me.
posted by cazoo at 1:04 PM on April 19, 2008


There's no doubt about it. His myth of fingerprints are all over it.
posted by Bromius at 1:14 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Frankly, I don't really buy this as the gospel truth. Simon made, and probably continues to make, a crapload of money from Graceland. I can't imagine for the life of me that Berlin, if he wasn't bound by session player agreement of some kind, wouldn't have sued once the success of the project became apparent. Los Lobos weren't new to the industry, so being naive to the importance of songwriting credit doesn't fly. More likely they participated in the sessions to some extent, signed away their rights to any songwriting credit because they didn't think much would come of it, and are now regretting the decision.
posted by schoolgirl report at 1:15 PM on April 19, 2008


I seem to recall Simon having this kind of issue dating back to El Condor Pasa (If I Could) on the Bridge Over Troubled Water album.
posted by pmurray63 at 1:26 PM on April 19, 2008


Paul Simon's version of the story is floating around the tubes. (Link is to a comment on one of the post's vias.)
posted by nowonmai at 1:29 PM on April 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, Los Lobos had been on Slash, which was acquired by London and therefore (?) Warner right around 1986. So their view of the industry may have changed dramatically that year. It's really, really hard for smaller bands to sue big labels- they just don't have the money.

More likely they participated in the sessions to some extent, signed away their rights to any songwriting credit because they didn't think much would come of it, and are now regretting the decision.

I'm pretty certain they regretted it a long time ago. Like I said, I heard about this in the late 80's.

I had to teach David Hildegger how to sing this song!

Uh, Paul? It's Hidalgo.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:32 PM on April 19, 2008


I had to log in to say that the google ads on the page are for "Complimentary Paul Simon Ringtones!"

Paul Simon stole my ringtone. Nah, not really, I gave it to him free, but he hasn't realised yet that it is a subscription service.
posted by Elmore at 1:38 PM on April 19, 2008


Thanks for that link nowonmai!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 1:43 PM on April 19, 2008


I mean he quite literally -- and in no way do I exaggerate when I say -- [Paul Simon] stole the songs from us.

I don't think "literally steal" means what he thinks it means. I mean, it's not like he took the sheet music from someone's music stand while noone was looking.

I think "appropriated" or possibly "usurped" might be the right word. Although I admit that "he literally -- and I'm not exaggerating here -- appropriated the song from us" does not really have the same zing to it.
posted by sour cream at 1:43 PM on April 19, 2008



Scarborough Fair

Paul Simon learned about this song when he was on tour in England, where he heard a version by a popular Folk singer named Martin Carthy. When Carthy heard Simon And Garfunkel's rendition, he accused Simon of stealing his arrangement. Carthy and Simon did not speak until 2000, when Simon asked Carthy to perform this with him at a show in London. Carthy put his differences aside and did the show.

The lines, "Remember me to one who lives there, She once was a true love of mine" were lifted from a 1963 Bob Dylan song called "Girl From The North Country." (thanks, Daniel - Baltimore, MD)

posted by Huplescat at 2:24 PM on April 19, 2008


Ah, thank you, nowonmai! For anyone who's interested, here's Paul Simon's full response, which doesn't contradict Berlin's story, but fills in a few important details. Plus there's a whole load of similar info about many of Simon's most popular songs straight from the horse's mouth. (The bit about "El Condor Pasa" in particular is quite interesting.)
posted by Sys Rq at 3:24 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq, that's the same response as in nowonmai's link, though the other stuff is interesting. nowonmai's link also has a response to Simon's response in the comments:

"I also wryly note Pauls line about hearing nothing for months after it came out- we were calling everyone we knew trying to get it worked out before more copies got sold, and then we heard he had to re do the cover to give the African players their proper credit, so that made us even more furious. And this day I dont think we ever got a penny for the 2 days work, so the moral here is always have a legal agreement before you start collaborating, especially with known assholes."
posted by oneirodynia at 3:40 PM on April 19, 2008


The funniest part is, after that whole rant about how Simon stole all these musical ideas from them without proper credit, the very next sentence from the interviewer is "Well, maybe we can turn to some brighter times – working with the litany of stars like Sheryl Crow"!
posted by First Post at 3:47 PM on April 19, 2008


Paul Simon totally stole Annie Hall from Alvy Singer.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:16 PM on April 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I am going to record everything and then sue everyone.
posted by unknowncommand at 4:44 PM on April 19, 2008


We believe we're gliding down the highway, when in fact we're slip sliding away.

I KNOW he wasn't the first one to figure that out, but I still love how he sang it...
posted by wendell at 5:14 PM on April 19, 2008


This isn't the first time I've read this. Los Lobos members have gone on record as saying this, repeatedly.
posted by raysmj at 6:30 PM on April 19, 2008


Huplescat:
The lines, "Remember me to one who lives there, She once was a true love of mine" were lifted from a 1963 Bob Dylan song called "Girl From The North Country." (thanks, Daniel - Baltimore, MD)"

Wikipedia says that it's the other way around, Dylan stole it from Scarborough Fair.
posted by octothorpe at 7:04 PM on April 19, 2008


Does anyone here know if the construct “remember me to...” is more appropriate to Medieval English or early twentieth century American folk idiom?
posted by Huplescat at 7:48 PM on April 19, 2008


Wikipedia says that it's the other way around, Dylan stole it from Scarborough Fair.

The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan - release date, May 27, 1963
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme - release date, October 10, 1966

Methinks wikipedia might be wrong! *shock, horror*
posted by waitingtoderail at 8:04 PM on April 19, 2008


I've heard similar stories about Paul and other musicians. This story is not a stretch. But I still loves me some Paul Simon.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 8:26 PM on April 19, 2008


I'm surprised that there is so much skepticism on this thread. This is not a breaking story--the fraught politics of musical ownership in this case are well documented in Louise Meintjes' master's thesis "Paul Simon's Graceland, South Africa, and the Mediation of Musical Meaning," the book Music Grooves by Steve Feld and Charlie Keil, and the book Nightsong by Veit Erlmann.

My favorite part of the story is the fact that the isiZulu words that Ladysmith Black Mambazo sing in "Diamonds on the soles of her shoes" are critically commenting on the situation depicted in Simon's lyrics. The "awa, awa" can be roughly translated as essentially "wtf?" or at least "what the heck?" and the rest of their lyrics are singing about how crazy it is that young women have so much freedom these days.
posted by umbú at 8:41 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


The song Scarborough Fair is traditional; it's possible that the lyric in question predates BOTH albums.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:30 PM on April 19, 2008


Well, pardon me for not having read some random individual's master's thesis; with so many of them coming out these days, it's hard to keep up with them all.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:40 PM on April 19, 2008


Scarborough Fair is an old English folk song that apparently shares a common mother with Child Ballad #2, The Elphin Knight.

From that tree you also get a number of American folk songs. If you look at this list of variants of Child #2 you find under Variant J:

1 NOW you are a-going to Cape Ann,
Follomingkathellomeday
Remember me to the self-same man.
Ummatiddle, ummatiddle, ummatallyho, tallyho, follomingkathellomeday


All that said, Dylan borrowed that line from Simon who ripped it from Carthy's hands after he'd found it and carried it forward.
posted by dw at 9:54 PM on April 19, 2008


Wikipedia says that it's the other way around, Dylan stole it from Scarborough Fair.

"I ran into some people in England who really knew those [traditional English] songs," Dylan recalled in 1984. "Martin Carthy, another guy named [Bob] Davenport. Martin Carthy's incredible. I learned a lot of stuff from Martin." Carthy exposed Dylan to a repertoire of traditional English ballads, including Carthy's own arrangement of "Scarborough Fair," which Dylan drew upon for the melody and lyrics of "Girl from the North Country," including the line from the refrain "Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine".*

Prior to Simon's learning the song, Bob Dylan had borrowed the melody and several lines from Carthy's arrangement in creating his song, "Girl from the North Country," which appeared on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and Nashville Skyline.*
posted by Sys Rq at 10:24 PM on April 19, 2008


I remember Dave Alvin talking about Los Lobos vs. Paul Simon backstage at the Pleasure Barons tour (1889 I think).

Okay, first off... 1889?

Secondly... OH MY GOD someone ELSE remembers the Pleasure Barons?!!!!!????? Seriously???? Are you kidding me? When I was 19 or so, Country Dick and Mojo were the bane of my existence at my radio job. (I'll have this Beat Farmers song in my head until the day I die, though.) I remember that right about the same time that the Pleasure Barons were making that album, I was at an El Vez show at the Casbah & a muu-muu wearing Mojo introduced me to a friend of his. This guy and I only dated for about ten minutes, but I really wanted to marry him just so we could tell our children and everyone else that's how we met. Introduced by Mojo in a muu muu at an El Vez show.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:33 PM on April 19, 2008


Apparently Steve Berlin responded to the comment linking to Simon's version on Stereogum.

I wish rock stars would come have their arguments on Metafilter!
posted by OutlawedYeomen at 11:07 PM on April 19, 2008


Oops, bad link. Here it is.
posted by OutlawedYeomen at 11:09 PM on April 19, 2008


Sure, the thesis is obscure, but an article-length version of it is on-line (I didn't link to it directly because you need access to jstor) and I thought someone might be interested in looking at it. But the books are available.

What I was trying to get at is that these questions of ownership were asked so much in the wake of the recording that Charles Hamm opened up a short article by asking "Does more need to be said about Paul Simon's Graceland?" (even if you're not authorized to see the whole article, the page displays the first page with this opening sentence).

Also, in the years after the release, there were several articles exploring the politics of breaking UNESCO's cultural boycott at the time that questioned Simon's version of the events.
posted by umbú at 11:56 PM on April 19, 2008


Say what you want about Paul Simon, but I've got nothing but good to say about Edie Brickell.

If you go here, you'll see this line at the end of the playlist:
"This practice jam was in preparation for a pair of shows on the 27th and 28th
at Trees to benefit Jahliese Blount, who's mother had been murdered.
"

Jahliese's mother was a friendly acquaintance to my family, and I'd watched her dancing with Jahliese at the local Reggae club many times. When she was murdered, Edie Brickell quickly joined/encouraged this benefit.

Because of her efforts, Jahliese will have more of a chance at a future than would have seemed possible. Ms. Brickell is a good egg, at least for that.
posted by batmonkey at 2:14 AM on April 20, 2008


I always thought 'the myth of fingerprints' sounded like it was different to the rest of the songs on Graceland. There were the African songs, the cajun songs and then 'myth' stuck on the end. Not at all suprising that Simon ripped off the songs on this album, it was clear that the sound had nothing to do with his input other than the lyrical content.
posted by asok at 3:40 AM on April 20, 2008


I am very curious about what some of these credits (for albums from P. Simon, and Sheryl Crow, for example, mentioned here, and others) look like before and after the artists' personal lawyers and the record label's lawyers get through parsing every word. A lot different, I would imagine... and it would explain a lot about why the accusing parties are invited to play with the (apparently) offending musician after the (apparent) theft, which seems pretty damn cheeky.

I mean, I can imagine a scenario where it starts out all we-are-in-this-together lalala, and the credits do reflect this, and then the lawyers are saying "no, you can't use the words 'thank you' for anything related to this song; you can't say this, you can't say that" - and by the end of it, the musician's happy, friendly me-and-the-lads notes are turned into something very careful that never suggest that they got any kind of help or collaborated with anyone. And then, later... well, the artist can't exactly walk around saying "Well, I wanted to credit X, but the lawyers wouldn't let me, and I had to go along with that."
posted by taz at 3:50 AM on April 20, 2008


And you stole them from black people (in this case, Africans), just like the entirety of rock music.

like "la bamba"?

you don't know what you're talking about
posted by pyramid termite at 4:57 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


it was clear that the sound had nothing to do with his input other than the lyrical content.

Right, and since the lyrical content of the album is pretty negligible, Paul's contribution isn't particularly noteworthy.

/sarcasm

(C'mon, I mean - I'm a musician, I have a vested interest in Los Lobos' position, but if all Paul did was write the lyrics to Graceland, well - it's still an amazing piece of artistic expression.)
posted by fingers_of_fire at 6:59 AM on April 20, 2008


it's still an amazing piece of artistic expression

Yeah, but can you imagine yourself working with some guys who come up with a song, you write lyrics for it, and then give them no credit at all? I can't imagine myself doing that. That's truly the sign of a monomaniac.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:40 AM on April 20, 2008


Yeah, but can you imagine yourself working with some guys who come up with a song, you write lyrics for it, and then give them no credit at all?

There's a long tradition for this in music, though. Take Simon's American Tune. The melody comes from Bach, but most Americans know it as O Sacred Head, Now Wounded. It's Bach's arrangement that's usually indicated in American hymnals.

Thing is, Bach didn't actually write it. It's really a 17th century German love song whose melody he lifted for the St. Matthew Passion.

Did Bach give the German love song writer credit? Nope. Did Simon give Bach credit for the arrangement? Nope. At least the hymnbooks credit Bach, but even they often leave out the earlier origin of the melody.
posted by dw at 10:08 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


The funniest part is, after that whole rant about how Simon stole all these musical ideas from them without proper credit, the very next sentence from the interviewer is "Well, maybe we can turn to some brighter times – working with the litany of stars like Sheryl Crow"!

I think what's even funnier is what Berlin says in response there:

"I just feel that my job is to be as opaque as possible and elevate, in any way possible, what it is I'm working on. I certainly try hard not to stamp the work I do with me."

I know this is not really incongruous with his gripes against Simon, but I still think it's funny to have something apparently contradictory like this right after that rant.

I can believe Simon and others discussing the music industry to some extent when they say this isn't what it looks like, things are complicated, there was no intention to cause bad feelings or rip off work, blah blah, but here's the thing. In situations where things get complicated and fuzzy and good attribution is clear, you don't really do the Right Thing by going with the flow and tolerating business as usual. Of course it's true that credit tends to flow upward, towards visibility, towards leadership, towards whatever makes a good story for the storytellers -- you see this happen all kinds of places from the cube farm to the art loft to the recording studio. If you really want to do the right thing -- if you really don't want to be a prick, even by accident -- sometimes you have to work pretty darn hard at it and be very generous with the credit.

And I don't see that even in Simon's defense of himself, honestly. So even though I'm something of a fan, I have to say that this does mute some of my respect for him.

And I'm going to have to rethink what I mean when I think about "his" music, replacing that concept instead with the idea of who knows how many other collaborators behind it.

But you know, maybe that's not so bad. dw is right, music really is like this a lot of the time, and maybe we're all be a little better off realizing it so that when we look at the name on the marquis we're less prone to get caught up in the cult of personality and more likely to see the network of influences and community behind the music.
posted by weston at 10:41 AM on April 20, 2008


sometimes you have to work pretty darn hard at it and be very generous with the credit ... And I don't see that even in Simon's defense of himself, honestly.

In my non-industry, outsider capacity, I think Simon should have given written credit. However, as I said, every memory I have about Simon during the time of the album's release has him being extremely generous, at least verbally, with the credit. In the case of the African music, he often told about listening to the original tracks over and over, and writing melodies and lyrics over the top, only to have to re-write them later, because where he thought he chorus should go actually ended up working better as a verse.

Despite all the verbal credit he gave in personal appearances, yeah, he should have put it in writing, because the credit on the album sleeve = getting properly paid. Certainly there are much more complicated circumstances surrounding such things than I can ever know about, but I'm certain Paul Simon would have had sufficient power to get it done right if he really wanted to.

On a lighter note: I remember a cartoon in Spy Magazine around that time. Two figures are poking their heads out of adjoining bushes in what appears to be an African jungle, looking at each other in surprise, both holding tape recorders. The caption read something like: "Paul Simon and David Byrne run into each other while researching new music."
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 1:45 PM on April 20, 2008


The funniest part is, after that whole rant about how Simon stole all these musical ideas from them without proper credit, the very next sentence from the interviewer is "Well, maybe we can turn to some brighter times – working with the litany of stars like Sheryl Crow"!

I think what's even funnier is what Berlin says in response there:

"I just feel that my job is to be as opaque as possible and elevate, in any way possible, what it is I'm working on. I certainly try hard not to stamp the work I do with me."


Why are either of those statement so amusing to you? Because you think Sheryl Crow is uncool? Or you don't know much about the music of Los Lobos, which has been as consistently well-regarded in critical circles (and by fellow musicians, especially from the roots music universe) as anything Paul Simon ever put out?

In any case, the problem Berlin seemed to have was not just a stealing of musical ideas, but the stealing of a song (or a nearly completed one). And he's a member of Los Lobos, a band which sounds like a band, not a collection of musicians who happen to be in one.
posted by raysmj at 9:35 PM on April 20, 2008


Secondly... OH MY GOD someone ELSE remembers the Pleasure Barons?!!!!!????? Seriously???? Are you kidding me?

Yep, I went to all their shows in the Bay Area (mostly because I knew the people from the Blasters and a couple other LA bands). Never a big fan of Mojo or the Beat Farmers, but I really enjoyed all the cover songs Country Dick sang with the PB's. His is the version of "Take a Letter, Maria" that plays in my head every time I meet someone named Maria.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:31 PM on April 22, 2008


Why are either of those statement so amusing to you? Because you think Sheryl Crow is uncool?

raysmj, I think the "funny" aspect is that Sheryl Crow is said to have ripped off collaborators as well. There's a link above delineating her ripoff of the Tuesday Night Music Club that ends in an utterly depressing way.
posted by Locative at 2:50 AM on April 23, 2008


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