The Story Behind Paul Simon’s Life-Changing Advice He Got From George Harrison
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In 1970, the world was left wondering what would become of the iconic duo Simon and Garfunkel after their split. While the pressures of constant touring, creative differences, and separate personal interests may have caused their partnership to end, Paul Simon remained optimistic about his musical prowess and the potential of his solo career.
In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1972, Simon shared an insightful exchange with George Harrison, who had gone through a similar transition after the Beatles’ breakup. Harrison’s comment was an invitation for Simon to embrace the transition and establish his own unique voice. Simon felt confident about meeting the challenge head-on. However, when he released his first solo album, he experienced the harsh reality of the music industry as it did not meet the expected commercial success despite its artistic merit.
Simon’s words about Harrison’s encouragement show how the former Beatle recognized that change could also be an opportunity for growth and exploration. Simon was ready to face the challenge, but the reality of not being welcomed into the public’s arms was unsettling. He believed that he had written better songs than he had before, but he realized that it would take a few more albums before people would listen.
“George Harrison said to me, ‘I’m really curious to hear your album because now you hear a sort of what we are like individually since the group broke up, and I know what you were like together, and I’d like to hear what you’re like individually,’” Simon said. “And all the while, in my head, I thought, this breakup is not really comparable to that Beatles breakup because there was a tremendous interaction in that group that came from the sound, and I said to myself, ‘I write better songs now than I used to write years ago, so I’m going to make a better album, but nobody knows that. They won’t know it till it comes out.’ That was my fantasy.”
“In fact, many critics said that. But the public didn’t in terms of buying the record, and that’s unsettling. I’m getting used to it now; I’m getting used to the fact,” he continued. “At first, I said, ‘Look, when it breaks up, you’re going to have to start all over again. It may take you a couple of albums before people will even listen.’ But actually, emotionally, I was ready to be welcomed into the public’s arms, as I had been in the past. And not that I’m not now, because it’s a successful album; this just goes to show you my perspective.”
In the end, Simon’s journey post-Simon and Garfunkel was not without its challenges, but he faced it head-on with his own self-belief and the encouraging words from a fellow musician. The split of Simon and Garfunkel was not comparable to the Beatles’ breakup as there was a tremendous interaction in that group that came from the sound. However, Simon recognized that his creative voice was worth exploring, and he went on to produce many solo albums that showcased his unique talents.