‘Graceland’ Turns 25

February 20th, 2012, byJeremy Freed

There are very few albums that appeal to me on the same level of Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” When it came out in 1986, I was only four years old, but to my parents, South African expats who had come of age listening to Simon and Garfunkel, it was a revelation. As a result, the album was in heavy rotation at our house for most of my formative years.

Last fall, Simon announced that to mark the CD’s 25th anniversary, he would be re-releasing a special boxed set, including a new documentary on the making of the album by Joe Berlinger. I’m a bit skeptical of re-issues, which are normally exercises in getting people to buy something they’ve already bought in different packaging, but I’ll withhold judgment until the details of what else is included in the set are available. The big deal for me, however, is that Simon has promised to not just tour the album again, but bring along the African musicians who collaborated with him on the original recording.

One of the most remarkable things about “Graceland” was its blending of pop and world music, a perfect marriage of Simon’s American roots in dixieland, zydeco and folk, with African sounds from the likes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba. In its rise to become one of the best albums of the decade, “Graceland” also succeeded in introducing the world to these artists, who have since achieved legendary status in their own right.

Of course, Simon doesn’t deserve all of the credit here–in a sense, he was using their unique sounds to improve his own–but by doing it at a time when South Africa and its music were boycotted by the rest of the world, this was a bold step to empowering these musicians, and the cultures from which they came, on the global scene.

Tour dates have not yet been announced, but it’s expected to happen sometime this spring/summer. Check here for updates in the meantime.

Last modified: February 27, 2012 at 1:32 pm