Paul Simon talked to the press yesterday in Tel Aviv, Israel, in advance of a concert tonight in Ramat Gan stadium. There is what appears to be a gently-edited twenty-minute clip available on YouTube (and embedded below the text here). It’s a pretty low-key, friendly chat, but interesting enough if you—like me—admire Simon a lot as a songwriter and musician. Simon talks about himself as a secular Jew and refers to his puzzlement at being sometimes expected to opine on behalf of Jews in general, especially with regard to Israeli/Palestinian issues. (Simon deliberately avoids commenting specifically on any political issues; of-course as soon as his gig in Tel Aviv was announced he would have begun coming under pressure to cancel it from those who advocate “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” against Israel. Clearly he did not cancel it.) Simon talks about the music on his current album and about playing live, and about how he’s taken to preserving the quality of his singing voice through a somewhat ascetic regimen by avoiding smoking, alcohol, coffee and more. (You would have to say that it seems to be working: he turns 70 this year, and still sounds like he did when he was 22.)
Along the way (and this is why I’m filing this under my Dylan section) a reporter asks about a rumor that there is tension between Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, in particular because Dylan was at one point asked to sing on Simon’s new album but didn’t do so. Simon dismisses that entirely, saying they’re friends, share a manager, and Dylan simply couldn’t make the recording session due to touring commitments. He also shares something that I at least hadn’t heard before: Bob Dylan has a penchant for welding. He creates gates and other objects this way, and he welded a gate for Paul Simon’s wife, Edie.
So, in between songwriting, album recording, sketching, painting, book-writing, radio show hosting, boxing, bike riding, and near-constant touring, Bob Dylan whips out the welding equipment and does some metalwork when he feels like it. He seems to keep up a pace and diversity of activity that would make Leonardo Da Vinci feel like a slouch. (But I think he could do worse than to take some tips from Paul Simon about vocal cord maintenance.)
Paul Simon’s press conference here: