Five of the Best: Paul Simon and Sting

Paul Simon and Sting have joined forces and will tour New Zealand live on stage together.

They may initially seem an odd mix; their musical styles are very different and even their public personalities appear poles apart, but these two music industry legends are both amazing song writers and exceptional performers. Between them – and their respective musical groups – Paul Simon and Sting have had multiple smash hits, endless awards and accolades and their influence on music and entertainment culture is inarguable. We have chosen the two artists as today’s Five of the Best and hope you enjoy our selections.

Paul Simon

5. Still Crazy After All These Years

While this song did not shoot up the charts, we think it is a fine example of Paul Simon’s work. Still Crazy After All These Years is the title song on the 1975 album of the same name and is a love song about a man who sees his former lover on the street. Many have speculated who Simon is singing about; his ex-wife Peggy Harper, an ex-girlfriend or even his former musical partner, Art Garfunkel? We may never know, but what we do know is Still Crazy After All These Years is a touching ballad and one of our favourite tracks from Simon’s solo work.

4. Mrs. Robinson

This number 1 hit by Simon and Garfunkel is synonymous with the 1967 film The Graduate, which starred Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft as Mrs Robinson. As well as appearing on the film’s soundtrack, Mrs. Robinson debuted on Simon and Garfunkel’s album Bookends in 1968. In 1969, the song earned the duo a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Mrs. Robinson is a highly-recognisable song and we believe it is one of the best from Paul Simon and his musical partner Art Garfunkel.

Simon & Garfunkel - Mrs. Robinson

3. Graceland

We have chosen the title song from Simon’s seventh studio album, Graceland, as number 3 on the list of Paul Simon’s best songs. The album was released in 1986 and the song won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1987. Until 2009, Graceland was the lowest charting song to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year – the ‘honour’ now held by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss for Please Read the Letter. Graceland features vocals by the Everly Brothers and the lyrics are reportedly about Simon’s split from wife Carrie Fisher (better known as Princess Leia in Star Wars).

2. Call Me Al

If for no other reason, the film clip for You Can Call Me Al makes this song a must-have on our list of Paul Simon’s best. The music video – which replaced the original video that Simon did not like – features Chevy Chase lip-syncing the vocals. The clip is upbeat, punchy and comical with Chase, who is more than a foot taller than Simon, towering over him. The song was the first single on the album Graceland and was originally released in 1986. There are many little facts about this song that make it fascinating. For instance, the solo is palindromic, only the first half was recorded, the second half is the original recording played backwards. And the names in the song came about because Simon and his wife Peggy were mistakenly introduced at a party by French conductor and composer Pierre Boulez as Al and Betty.

Paul Simon - You Can Call Me Al (Official Video)

1. Bridge Over Troubled Water

Bridge Over Troubled Water is a little lucky to be included as number 1 on the list given Art Garfunkel is in fact the solo singer of this classic ballad. But the song was written by Paul Simon and remains one of his finest works during his time in the duo Simon and Garfunkel. It was released as the title track of the 1970 album of the same name, the final album by the celebrated duo – they split after its completion. Both the single and album won multiple Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year and Bridge Over Troubled Water was covered by many of the biggest names in music including Elvis, Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, Bon Jovi, the Jackson 5 and Johnny Cash.

Simon & Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Central Park


5. Don’t Stand So Close To Me

Sting is not afraid to tackle controversial topics. Don’t Stand So Close To Me explores sexuality in the classroom and is semi-autobiographical. When Sting was performing his teaching rounds he was the subject of schoolgirl crushes. As described by Sting himself: “I’d done teaching practice at secondary schools and been through the business of having 15-year-old girls fancying me – and me really fancying them! How I kept my hands off them I don’t know…”. The song was written by Sting released in 1980 and was a hit for The Police.

The Police - Don't Stand So Close To Me (Official Music Video)

4. Englishman in New York

Englishman in New York is a solo release off Sting’s 1987 album …Nothing Like the Sun. The song was written about Sting’s friend Quentin Crisp, an openly gay man who moved from England to New York. The song has an intriguing mix of musical styles; it is part jazz, part reggae, part pop and part rock and somehow it seems to work. And we bet you didn’t know this little fact about the song: “One of my favourite little jokes is from an Englishman in New York, where at one point we’re playing ‘God Save The Queen’ in a minor key. It really tickles me but nobody else hears it!” That was an admission from Sting himself. We can’t hear it either, but we really like the song and think it is very appropriate for the list.

Sting - Englishman In New York

3. Fields of Gold

We believe Fields of Gold is the best of Sting’s solo work. Released in 1993, it was the third single on his Ten Summoner’s Tales album. It was a hit in many countries around the world and is probably Sting’s signature solo song. The song was written shortly after Sting moved to the country and there were barley fields next door to his house. Sting recalled in an interview that when he performs the song the crowd sways like barley in a field, which he describes as “disconcerting”. He has described the song “as straight a folk ballad as you would find” but we think it is very deserving of its place on our list.

Sting - Fields Of Gold

2. Roxanne

Roxanne was written by Sting and performed by The Police. It was released in 1978 and features on their album Outlandos d’Amour. The name was inspired by an old poster for the play Cyrano de Bergerac, which was hanging in the foyer of the seedy hotel The Police occupied during a stay in France. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008 and was listed as number 388 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. We think it is Sting and The Police at their finest and very deserving number 2 on this list.

The Police - Roxanne (Official Music Video)

1. Every Breathe You Take

Every Breath You Take was the biggest hit for Sting and The Police and earned the group multiple awards and accolades. It appeared on the band’s 1983 album Synchronicity and was written by Sting in half an hour in the middle of the night. Such was the tension between Sting and band member Stewart Copeland at the time of recording, the song almost didn’t see the light of day. Every Breath You Take is a sinister song about a controlling character and yet it is one of the most misinterpreted songs of all time with many couples even playing it as their wedding song. In 1997 the song was sampled on Puff Daddy’s track I’ll Be Missing You, a tribute to slain artist Notorious B.I.G. Sting and Puff Daddy performed the song together at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards. We think it is Sting’s finest work and a worthy song to take the number 1 spot on our list.

The Police - Every Breath You Take (Official Music Video)

Paul Simon and Sting – On Stage Together will be performed on Friday January 30,  2015, at Vector Arena. The duo will also perform at TSB Bowl of Brooklands on Saturday January 31, 2015. Click here to purchase tickets.