Thursday, October 4, 2007

Memphis, TN

There are two albums that my Dad introduced me to in my childhood that I still listen to today, Billy Joel's An Innocent Man and Paul Simon's Graceland. I really got a kick out of sliding around on the kitchen floor in my socks and belting out "I aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmmmmm an innocent man" when I was a kid.

Although I still love Innocent Man (I just listened to it this morning), it's Graceland I identify more and more with as an adult. As a kid, I loved the "silly" song "You can call me Al," for what I saw as it's elements of pretend ("I can call you Betty and Betty, when you call me you can call me Al"), it's upbeat tempo, and it's confusing, but engaging imagery ("Mister Beer-belly [beer-belly] /Get these mutts away from me/I don't find this stuff amusing anymore). Now, as an adult, I hear that song as being about identity crisis. I like that I can still enjoy all the elements of Graceland that I did as a child and as an adult (with a larger vocabulary) I can find meaning in Simon's songs. (You can listen to You Can Call me Al here.)

What I also didn't know as a child, is that Graceland was caught up in some controversy involving UN resolutions against South African apartheid. It seems that at the time the album was made there was a cultural boycott of South Africa going on. Simon used South African artists on Graceland, but as none of the money from the album went to support the apartheid government and the album featured the work of black South Africans, Simon was cleared of any wrong-doing.

For some interesting reading on the history of apartheid please check this out. (This article is specifically about how computer technology was used during apartheid, but this page gives a brief general history of South African apartheid.)


drh said...

I was just old enough I think to remember that there was some controversy about that album but I didn't understand it at the time.

"You can call me Al" is a song my dad and I both love. And the video with Chevy Chase adds another great dimension to it. :)

Anonymous said...

..the whole album is fabulous (Graceland--and one I've not listened to in awhile :)