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Last night Paul Simon received Library of Congress’ first annual Gershwin Prize for Popular Song at the Warner Theatre. (It’ll be broadcast on PBS on June 27.) I like Simon, but star-studded tributes like these have a way of sucking the lifeblood out of anybody’s music; I think I heard somebody sing about being “maddog fuckin’ crazy after all these years” halfway through, but that somebody was James Taylor.
A few notes from the peanut gallery:
- In his opening remarks, Bob Costas argued that Paul Simon’s genius spans multiple decades, a point that would’ve had more heft if the evening featured more than one post-Graceland tune. The one that Simon did break out is a sweet but lesser ditty, first written for an animated children’s film, that’s practically designed for cutesy YouTube slideshows.
- A series of video clips featuring various renditions of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” included a severe take by a Marine chorus, prompting giggles from the crowd. They shut up quick, though, once it became clear that the footage came from Ronald Reagan’s funeral. Still OK to laugh at Elvis, though!
- Shawn Colvin and Alison Krauss’ attempt at “The Boxer” got botched by a wave of feedback. They tried it again later in the evening; same problem. That sound you hear is a soundman gnashing his teeth and flipping through want ads.
- Philip Glass played “Sound of Silence” on piano. Ironically, it sounded like he was attempting to dismantle a locomotive.
- Art Garfunkel’s attempt to nail the end of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”—-the fourth greatest song ever, according to, er, Art Garfunkel—-was a beautifully heroic thing. Really.
- Note to Marc Anthony: Nice job with “Late in the Evening,” but air bass makes nobody look good.