“If I have weaknesses, don’t let them blind me…”

You know those movies where the girl and the guy meet when they are young – maybe at a family picnic, or at a run in at the convenience store- and acknowledge each other but don’t think much of it, then meet again years later and realize they are in love?

That’s how it was for me and Paul Simon.

I first heard his music while riding in our Mazda MPV during one of our numerous family trips. I recall my older sister and I laughing at a point in the song “Proof” because we felt he was squishing too many words together and it sounded funny. Years later my laughter turned to love.

I heard him again. Dug up the old cassette that had Graceland on one side and some Randy Crawford songs on the other.  I laid on the bed on weekend and listened to and rewound that Graceland album until the words started to slur and the bass guitar dipped long and low (the batteries were running out for those of you who don’t know how walkmans work).  I listened to the rhythms of every song.  I finally heard the words.  They were like nothing I’d ever heard before.  He used plain words : ” I said ‘hey now, breakdowns come and breakdowns go so what are you gonna do about it that’s what I’d like to know'”  But they way he sang them, never belting, never crooning, just put them out there, smooth, simple, pure, almost fairytale like, he made listening to each song feel like I was watching my favorite movie-sad, funny, intriguing, never predictable.

I appreciate how he was able to not only welcome the sounds of other cultures and musicians but step back into it and find his way to add beauty to something bigger than himself  alone.

We sailed up a river wide as a sea
And slept on the banks
On the leaves of a banyan tree
And all of these spirit voices rule the night

Some stories are magical, meant to be sung
Song from the mouth of the river
When the world was young
And all of these spirit voices rule the night

By moon
We walk
To the brujo’s door
Along a path of river stone
Women with their nursing children
Seated on the floor
We join the fevers
And the broken bones

The candlelight flickers
The falcon calls
A lime-green lizard scuttles down the cabin wall
And all of these spirit voices
Sing rainwater, sea water
River water, holy water
Wrap this child in mercy – heal her
Heaven’s only daughter
All of these spirit voices rule the night

From “Spirit Voices” Paul Simon

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