“An unusual degree of understanding…

… among people who had just met.”  (Paul Simon, summing up the album, Graceland)

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Paul Simon and many of the musicians speak in this one-hour documentary – about the making of the now-classic album “Graceland”, which sold 14 million copies.  An interesting insight into an unusual way of working – collecting music from another culture, halfway across the world, then Paul Simon trying to write lyrics in another language, to it.

(The documentary is available to view, via BBC i-player in the UK for the next 29 days)

It’s a one-hour documentary.  Along the way, it ponders how a nation often does not value its own inherent culture and music.  (American music was the usual background music for nightclubs in South Africa, at the time).  So it was sensational to hear its own music played back to it, in an altered form, by an American.

If you have ever wondered how a collection of songs can become a great hit – the answer here is the usual – no shortcuts, a great deal of time and effort, a writer/singer/musician working with music he instinctively liked and responded to, in a place he felt confident creating in (as son of a musician, happy to create in-studio) and many many talented people, good sound engineers and minimum interference from studio executives (at the time, Paul Simon’s career was floundering so expectations were low) – in an intense situation (politically).  No one was messing around, showboating.  They were having fun, but in a focused way.  It was all a terrific gamble and a totally new, open way of working for Paul and his engineer.




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