by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Afriend of mine does this Simon and Garfunkel impersonation. He mimics the soft-spoken Garfunkel, leaning into the microphone, telling the audience,
“We’d like to slow things down now . . . even more.”

It’s a common joke, especially among young people. You tell anyone under 30 that you’re going to see Simon and Garfunkel on their reunion tour — that you’re excited about it! — and they snicker as if you can’t wait for your new pair of Depends.

“Wow, Simon and Garfunkel,” they deadpan. “You’re gonna rock.”

Now it’s true, Paul Simon, 62, and Art Garfunkel, 61, don’t have the energy, physique or hairlines of 50 Cent, Eminem or Justin Timberlake. I have seen their reunion show, and if Simon strums his guitar hard, it’s a major piece of choreography. There are no dancers. Nobody spins, gyrates or drops to the floor like a Russian cossack.

But let me tell the young readers why my generation is flocking to see these two men, both of whom are old enough to receive AARP benefits.

It’s simple.

We can understand them.

No need for curse words I don’t just mean we can understand their words, although that’s part of it. Scientists have proven — or they should have proven — that by age 35 your ears make a major biological shift, and you can no longer make out what teenagers are listening to (nor can you any longer, for that matter, “make out”).

For example, I saw Eminem in concert a few months back, and all night long, the only words I could comprehend were (bleep) and (bleep) and, for some reason, “child support.”

By contrast, at the Simon and Garfunkel concert. I could clearly hear lyrics such as:Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you And,The words of the prophets are writtenOn the subway walls, and tenement hallsAnd whispered in the sounds of silence It’s not just understanding these words. It’s understanding the song.It’s understanding — dare I say it? — the point of the song. Sorry kids, but there’s not an artist out there today who writes on a poetic level like Paul Simon. Not even close. This man wrote the following:We come on the ship they call the MayflowerWe come on a ship that sailed the moonWe come in the age’s most uncertain hoursAnd sing an American tune Or, When darkness comesAnd pain is all aroundLike a bridge over troubled waterI will lay me down By contrast, you have 50 Cent’s big hit:It’s your birthday, we gon’ party likeIt’s yo’ birthday

No need for music videos Now, I don’t mean to mud-sling a generation. Teenagers should embrace the music of their time. We did. Our parents did. But the reason middle-aged adults are coming out in droves to Simon and Garfunkel is that their songs were not merely excuses to make videos — they were songs. We sang them. We didn’t rap them. We didn’t mime them. We sang them.

Any child of the ’60s has tried, at one point, to harmonize with a friend on
“The Boxer” or “The Sounds of Silence” or “At the Zoo.” That’s why, when Simon and Garfunkel perform, it’s a concert. People are listening. Not dancing. Not getting high. Not waiting for the pyrotechnics or the big video screen.

So let the kids laugh. Let them think we’re attending the musical equivalent of a shuffleboard match. Let them mock the Simon and Garfunkel energy. Let them say, “We want to slow things down . . . even more.”

You know what I say? Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the morning last. Just kicking down the cobblestones. Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy. Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy.

OK. That song was a little silly.

But it never mentioned child support.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. He will sign copies of “The Five People You Meet In Heaven” at 7 p.m. Nov. 2 at Thackeray’s in Toledo and 7 p.m. Nov. 3 at Borders in Farmington Hills.


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New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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