Paul Simon has played in Australia for the last time, announcing today that he will retire from touring in the middle of 2018, following his Homeward Bound tour of Europe, the UK and US.
His last concert will be in London’s Hyde Park on July 15, alongside James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt.
“I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to reach the point where I’d consider bringing my performing career to a natural end. Now I know: it feels a little unsettling, a touch exhilarating, and something of a relief,” Simon said in a statement.
The American singer’s decision follows announcements by fellow veteran rockers Neil Diamond and Elton John in recent weeks to also end their touring careers – in Diamond’s case due to ill health and for John, to spend more time with his young family.
Announcing his decision in New York on Monday evening, local time, the 76-year-old said he still loved making music and his voice was strong, but the loss of his lead guitarist and friend of 30 years, African-born Vincent N’guini, who died, aged 65, of liver cancer in December, had contributed to the decision.
“His loss is not the only reason I’ve decided to stop touring, but it is a contributing factor. Mostly, though, I feel the travel and time away from my wife and family takes a toll that detracts from the joy of playing,” he wrote.
Simon still wants to do the “occasional performance” to support philanthropic organisations, “particularly those whose objective is to save the planet, ecologically”, he said.
“Once again, I am very grateful for a fulfilling career and, of course, most of all to the audiences who heard something in my music that touched their hearts.”
The New Jersey-born New Yorker’s career spans seven decades, beginning with the folk rock duo Simon and Garfunkel, whose first big hit was “The Sound of Silence” in 1964.
The paid met at school in New York in 1953, and within a few years, were performing as Tom & Jerry, and had their first minor hit. They split, establishing a pattern that would continue for the next few decades as Simon & Garfunkel won 10 Grammy Awards and were subsequently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their 1981 for “The Concert in Central Park” was performed in front of 500,000 fans.
After the duo officially split in 1971, Simon’s first eponymous album in 1972 featured his first dabble with global music influences with the reggae-sounding “Mother and Child Reunion”.
In the mid 80s, Simon embraced African music and the group Ladysmith Black Mambazo to produce Graceland. It became his best-selling album and earned him the 1987 Grammy for album of the year, and subsequently record of the year and reintroduced Simon to a whole new generation.
But his career began to dissipate again in the late 90s, and his album of songs from the musical The Capeman failed to make the top 40 charts for the first time in his career.
But following the September 11 attacks, his back catalogue captured the zeitgeist, especially when he sang “The Boxer” to open the comedy show Saturday Night Live in the wake of the attack, along with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” sung during a national fundraising telethon.
His 13th studio album, “Stranger to Stranger” was released in 2016.
Simon has been married three times, including a brief second marriage to the late Carrie Fisher, who inspired the songs “Hearts and Bones”, “Graceland” and “She Moves On”.
He married fellow musician Edie Brickell in 1992 and they have three children.
Here’s his full statement on retiring from touring.
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