Paul Simon – Graceland: #518 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Paul Simon - Graceland

So why is Paul Simon’s Graceland on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

Some albums conjure more memories and thoughts than others, and Graceland is quite a conjuror on that score.

I was a Resident Advisor at Binghamton University during my junior year. Even applying to be an RA was a big deal for me as I wasn’t terribly outgoing – except around my friends and people I was pretty familiar with. My RA when I was a freshman, Chris, became a good friend and helped guide me through the interview process.

His guidance provided me with a great lesson on leadership generally*. You see, part of the interview process involved all of the RA applicants getting split up into groups of eight or ten people. We were instructed to tackle some kind of group project that would allow the interviewers to observe our communication and collaboration skills and such.

* The lesson in leadership in that I took away is that I always look to foster collaboration and communication while stepping into the leadership role when I sense it’s needed to best position the team to succeed.

Pretty stressful if you had no idea what was coming! But thankfully I did. And thanks to Chris’ coaching, I was able to insert myself into the early, awkward group dynamic to help set a framework for facilitating conversation and ideas amongst the group – all of whom of course were bristling with energy to show off their full array of RA-y skills.

So I got the gig, bully for me. The RAs were later invited to arrive on campus a few days before the fall semester began for training. At the end of training, some of us decided to put on a little concert for the others to help celebrate the start of the schoolyear. I played bass guitar and, clever copywriter-in-training that I was, named our pop up band STAFF OF RA (get it?). We had a horn section, and overall we weren’t bad*.

* We raided the costume closet and dressed up in vintage-y 1970s outfits. There’s a picture of me that I have somewhere playing bass on stage, wearing my groovy outfit, and looking frightfully young.

One of the songs we played? Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al.” So ever since, when I hear the opening keyboard riff and that bass line, it takes me right back.

For most people, beyond “You Can Call Me Al” being perhaps the most famous of Simon’s solo career –and a standout track on the world music-influenced Graceland – the fun music video that features (frightfully young-looking) Chevy Chase lip syncing the vocals stands out as well.

The zydeco-flavored “The Boy In the Bubble” might be my favorite song on Graceland these days. I got really into zydeco music for a while after my first visit to New Orleans for Mardi Gras during my senior year of college*.

* I was an RA for a full year, which included a summer semester, after which I moved into the “unofficial” rugby house and joined the rugby team. I had two incredible and two incredibly different experiences during my third and fourth years of undergrad life, and I’m immensely grateful for both.

Pick Up On This! by Beau Jocque and the Zydeco Hi-Rollers is well worth checking out if zydeco music interests you. Here’s “Hucklebuck,” one of my favorites.

“Homeless,” which is credited to Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, shows off pretty astonishing range on Graceland, as well as gorgeous and haunting vocals, and South African musical influences.

See also: Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Waters: #676 of best 1,000 albums ever

Some stats & info about Paul Simon – Graceland

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Singer-Songwriter, Adult Contemporary, Soft Rock, World Music
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #46
  • All Music’s rating – 5 stars out of 5
  • When was Graceland released? 1986
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #518 out of 1,000

Paul Simon’s Graceland on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from Paul Simon’s Graceland that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

If you’ll be my bodyguard, I can be your long lost pal. I can call you Betty, and Betty, when you call me, you can call me Al.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.