Forest Hills High School graduate Paul Simon is set to play Forest Hills Stadium in Queens for the first time in 40 years tonight and tomorrow night, and the symbolism of playing in his hometown isn't the only way in which Simon is coming full circle. You may want to look into purchasing tickets to one of the shows, because Simon told the NY Times today that he has no plans to ever play music again.
"It’s an act of courage to let go," Simon told the paper. "I am going to see what happens if I let go. Then I’m going to see, who am I? Or am I just this person that was defined by what I did? And if that’s gone, if you have to make up yourself, who are you?"
Simon sounds world-weary and showbiz-weary in equal measure, especially when he discusses how he often needs 15 hours of sleep at a stretch, or when he mistakes big white tents for mountains. He sounds tired of needing to rest his voice for days between shows, tired of fame (“I’ve seen fame turn into absolute poison when I was a kid in the ’60s”) and mostly tired of being tired all the time.
Not that he's planning on phoning it in for what could be his final shows (besides the two in Forest Hills, he also has one on the books at the O2 Arena in the Czech Republic in October). There's a description of Simon's rigorous tour preparations with his band in the piece ("he kept his band on stage for two hours in the swampy afternoon heat, checking the sound and fine-tuning songs").
There's also this nice bit of self-reflection on his songwriting process:
He labors at music and lyrics, he said, unwilling to accept what would have been satisfactory to him a few years earlier, feeling stalled. Then the songs will move ahead in leaps.
“I was 21, maybe 22, when I wrote ‘The Sound of Silence,’ which seems to me like quite a big jump from where I was before that,” he said. “And why or where, I have no idea. I thought the same thing when I wrote ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ —whoa, that song is better than what I’ve been doing. Different chords and something special about it. The same feeling with ‘Graceland,’ and ‘Still Crazy After All These Years.’”
The successes mystify him, he said: “All of a sudden you’re there, and you’re surprised. This happened to me at times where some line comes out, where I’m the audience and it’s real, and I have to stop, because I’m crying. I didn’t know I was going to say that, didn’t know that I felt that, didn’t know that was really true. I have to stop and catch my breath.”
He paused, then added, “It doesn’t happen too often.”
Could he still pull off some charity performances? Might he form a supergroup with Lorne Michaels and Steve Martin? Is there still a chance he could reunite with Art Garfunkel for a show or two? Hell has frozen over before. But Simon sounds like a man determined to get out of the way of an oncoming train before he gets struck. He's more sleepy than crazy after all these years.