Music Features

Peter Ames Carlin Interview - Paul Simon biography

When Peter Ames Carlin’s biography of Bruce Springsteen, Bruce, appeared in 2012, I remember thinking it was about time someone had taken a serious look at his life and work, outside of the insider take of his rise and rise from Dave Marsh back in the 80s. Now, with Bruce’s own memoir, we have an objective and subjective look at the man who became literally what Lennon called a “working class hero”.

Flash forward to the present and I find myself glancing through the shelves of the local Barnes & Noble (sadly, the only bricks and mortar book store in my area), when I happen upon Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon by, you guessed it, the very same Peter Ames Carlin. Lo and behold, he had done it again; found a subject woefully underserved in the musical biography department. Simon is clearly one of the major figures of popular music of the past 50 years, making a powerful cultural impact in at least three decades, the 60s, 70s and 80s, and who remains a vital, searching recording artist to this day. Carlin’s book does not disappoint, hitting all the major turns in Simon’s long and varied career, as well as covering in depth his fraught yet deep and lasting relationship with erstwhile partner, Art Garfunkel.

Simon emerges a complicated figure, at once generous, thoughtful and confident, then ruthlessly self-interested and insecure. Which is to say he’s a human being, and portrayed as such. There are many surprises in these pages for Simon fans, casual or otherwise, which makes it a must for this demographic. But it also reads quickly and engagingly, making it entertaining for the lay reader as well. The arc of Simon’s life and career is interesting enough on its own terms and Carlin is able to make it sing through the pages of this book. I got to speak to the author about the book recently, and a link to that audio interview is below: