Paul Simon

The Life
Narrated by: Dennis Boutsikaris
Length: 12 hrs and 20 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (328 ratings)

Audible Premium Plus

$14.95 a month

1 audiobook of your choice.
Stream or download thousands of included titles.
$14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $27.99

Buy for $27.99

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

A publishing event from music legend Paul Simon: an intimate, candid, and definitive biography written with Simon's participation - but without editorial control - by acclaimed biographer and music writer Robert Hilburn.

Through such hits as "The Sound of Silence", "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "Still Crazy After All These Years", and "Graceland", Paul Simon has spoken to us in songs for a half-century about alienation, doubt, resilience, and empathy in ways that have established him as one of the most honored and beloved songwriters in American pop music history. His music has gone beyond the sales charts into our cultural consciousness. He was the first songwriter awarded the Gershwin Prize by the Library of Congress and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (twice) and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Deeply private, Simon has said he will not write an autobiography and has refused to talk to previous biographers. But he not only opened up to acclaimed biographer Robert Hilburn for what has amounted to more than 100 hours, he also urged those around him to speak. Independently, Hilburn also interviewed others who have been important in Simon's life, including his first two wives, Peggy Harper and Carrie Fisher, as well as, for the first time, people close to Kathy Chitty, his long-reclusive first muse.

The result is a deeply human account of the challenges and sacrifices of a life in music at the highest level, including the courage to leave Simon and Garfunkel at the peak of the duo's popularity to pursue more fully his expanding artistic goals. Hilburn documents Simon's search for artistry and his constant struggle to protect that artistry against distractions - fame, marriage, divorce, drugs, record company interference, rejection, and insecurity - that have derailed so many great pop figures.

Paul Simon: The Life is an intimate and inspiring narrative that helps us finally understand Paul Simon the person and the artist, including new and absorbing insights into his most enduring songs. Exploring his successes and failures onstage and off, the book combines the scholarship, passion, and storytelling grace of biography at its best.

©2018 Robert Hilburn (P)2018 Simon & Schuster

Critic Reviews

"Using a conversational tone throughout, Boutsikaris delivers the song lyrics as if they were works of poetry, giving listeners a new perspective on them." (AudioFile)

More from the same

What listeners say about Paul Simon

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    199
  • 4 Stars
    102
  • 3 Stars
    20
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    1
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    177
  • 4 Stars
    87
  • 3 Stars
    29
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    3
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    191
  • 4 Stars
    87
  • 3 Stars
    19
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    3

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Missed opportunity

Overall, I enjoyed learning more about Paul. I am a big fan of his. And, the narrator did a good job reading the material. Where the big fail is here, is the lost opportunity to embrace audio as a story-telling platform. Every time I heard the narrator read lyrics referred to in the story, I felt a snippet of the actual song, (with Paul, or in some cases, Art or another vocalist) should have been played instead. This is especially frustrating when the narrator talks about the music, and the music isn't presented. Fortunately I know all the references and could sing them in my head. But audiobooks shouldn't be just a person reading a story, especially a story about about music, since music is also a widely recorded medium.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Paul Simon the music

This book is mistitled. It is not about Paul Simon's life (including friendships and other personal relationships) in any but a superficial fashion. If what you're looking for is a well-researched, detailed chronology of the evolution of Simon's music, this is the book for you.

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A must for fans of Paul Simon

I've had a subscription to the LA Times most of my adult life. Robert Hilburn was the rock music critic for the Times for 35 of those years. His biography, Paul Simon: The Life, is a loving and unblinking portrait of one of the greatest songwriters of my generation. In his book about Simon's life devoted to writing songs and making music, Hilburn describes Paul Simon's struggles to balance professional life with a stable and happy personal one. He details Simon's close but antagonistic relationship with Art Garfunkel, finally ending in an irreparable split. But the best parts of the book are about Simon's creative process in songwriting. These passages are deeply personal and wonderfully insightful. Simon's struggle to always improve through learning from and collaborating with other musicians sets an example for any striving novice. As a 50-plus year fan of Simon's music, Paul Simon: The Life was a sublime read (or listen) and deeply affecting. Kudos to the narrator, Dennis Boutsikaris.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Still Crazy

The first time I heard Simon and Garfunkel was the song “The Sound of Silence” and something pulled at my heart then. As a 12-year-old, I didn’t really understand it, but it moved me. “And the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls” pushed me. It made me think. Then there was the Boxer, “Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregard the rest.” I took a trip with them to look for America and learned about Kodachrome’s nice bright colors. I remember feeling upset about their breakup, almost as much as when the Beatles did so. Paul Simon wrote about almost every subject that you can think of from love to the most mundane and yet, there was always something else below the surface. Their singing of “Silent Night” with the background of a news report was so simple and yet so moving. And, he kept on going. “Still Crazy After All These Years” became almost an anthem among my dorm buddies. And, we learned that there were 50 ways to leave your lover, which is something I never needed. He branched out into so many different styles and kept growing in his music. This book is not just a biography. It’s an investigation into what made a great songwriter and musician tick. It’s based on extensive interviews with Paul Simon, in itself an accomplishment since Paul Simon was so very private. Hilburn also interviewed everyone who was close to him including his wife Carrie Fisher shortly before her death. It shows a commitment to music that was primary and a competitiveness accompanied by a lack of self-confidence. He was sensitive about his height, just over 5 feet, his thinning hair, and often worried that he could not keep up the creativity to stay relevant. He was not very good with people, though at times he could also be very generous. His relationship with Art Garfunkel, on again and off again, was, at least as portrayed in this book, was due to his own insecurity, critical spirit, and inability to forget slights, but also Art’s mercurial personality and inability to stay focused. And, Simon didn’t want to be tied down, to have to compromise. The book takes us right up to Simon’s “retirement” and last tour in 2018, though he promised to keep writing songs. If you liked (like) Paul Simon or Simon and Garfunkel, this is a must-read. It gives a greater understanding of Simon and of the meaning and source of his songs. Many of his song lyrics are included in their entirety, there are some additional verses that were not in the first recording of a couple of songs. A superb work. 

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

What an incredibly talented man

This is my second time through the book and enjoyed it just as much as the first time. I disagree with the reviewer who mentioned they didn't like lyrics being read. I thought it added an interesting view of the lyrics. As he read them I remembered the song but enjoyed them on a different level, being read instead of sang. I have been a lifelong fan of Paul and this book has helped me enjoy his lifes work even more. The narrator was great for the story, he was engaging with the writing. I highly recommend this for any Simon fan. Thanks.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Enjoyable Listen

I am sure that you aren't looking at this book unless you are a S&G fan, and I bought it for the same reason. I enjoyed it most in unexpected ways, however, as Simon's description of the work that went into writing some of his songs had me going back to listen to them again with a new perspective. Much of his newer stuff has had little interest for me, as it lacks the hooks found in his earlier stuff. After hearing about his thought process, I found the songs much more interesting. Highly recommended biography.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great story of Paul Simon's journey through life.

I really loved it. It was a great story of Paul Simon's journey through life. This minimum number of words for my review is dumb.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • JC
  • 05-18-18

Great!

Bob Hilburn brings insights into Pail Simon like nobody else can. His access and long history covering music is invaluable.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Exceptional

There is plenty of information on the in’s and out’s of Simon’s journey in life as well as music. What sets this biography apart is the insight on the creative process. I didn’t want it to end. I wish it were longer. A fantastic book.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful

Really loved the story behind this incredible artist. I felt this bio contained enough detail without being too wordy. My favorite aspect was hearing the story behind certain songs, and hearing the lyrics read so that you could just focus on the words and decipher their meaning. It would have been absolutely awesome to have some of his songs interjected into this audiobook! To hear the rhythms and many different unique instruments and styles as the years go by.