Thursday, July 22, 2010

Celebrity Death Match: Simon verses Elvis

Glancing at my marathon playlist (See The Playlist I Literally Sweated Over), most people can't help but notice that tracks from Paul Simon and Elvis Presley dominatesongs from Elvis, Paul Simon, and Simon & Garfunkel account for 17 of the 98 songs on the playlist, and that total creeps to 20 if you include the three tracks from Harper Simon as Paul Simon tracks which I do. I'm all for letting kids of superstars make their own way in this world, but Harper's voice sounds like such a Paul Simon clone I had to check the liner notes to make sure it wasn't Paul Simon singing.

That means that a little more than 20 percent of the music that will carry me along on race day belongs to one of these two men. Who, then, is the King of the playlist? Who is my Mr. Marathon? Paul Simon gets the advantage in number of tracks, but Elvis is the King of Rock. This was a question that would need further investigation. This was a question that would need a death match!

Round # 1—Volume
Elvis' nine songs pale next to the 11 songs I'm attributing to Paul. Unfair because Paul Simon didn't write any of Harper Simon's songs you say? Elvis didn't write any of the music that made him rich, either (not even the few early hits that were credited to him).

Point goes to Paul Simon.

Round # 2—Longevity of My Obsession
I've been a Paul Simon freak since 1992, and though I liked Elvis fine when he came on the radio, I didn't start obsessing until 2001.

Point goes to Paul Simon.

Round # 3—Muse-like Qualities of the Music
I'll fight anyone who tells me that there's a more poetic songwriter than Paul Simon alive today (and I question the existence of your musical soul if you can listen to the live version of "The Cool, Cool River" without getting goosebumps at the end when he repeats the line: "sometimes even music cannot substitute for tears"), but it was an Elvis song that planted the seeds of the novel I'm revising. Sorry, Paul.

Point goes to Elvis.

Round # 4—Gateway
Whose music is a bigger gateway: Paul Simon introducing the world to African tribal music and the rhythms of South African drumming or Elvis blowing through what until that point had been largely segregated musical styles and introducing the world to rock 'n roll so definitively that even though historians will quibble about what was truly the first rock record, few will mount a real contest to Elvis's King of Rock title? Man. Those VH1 pundits make spinning definitive statements from subjective sociology look sooo easy. I don't want to take the clear point-awarded-to-both cop out, but I will defer to the Boss on this. Bruce Springsteen never got escorted from Paul Simon's door, but he did hop the fence at Graceland and get intercepted as he made a break for Elvis's front door.

Because the Boss is, well, the boss, point goes to Elvis.

Round # 5—First-name fame
Paul Simon tried so hard to get the world to call him Al, and while most people know who Paul Simon is (though a depressingly large percentage of my students do NOT know this name), if my husband said he listened to Paul yesterday, I'd tell him it's always good to listen to his boss. If my husband told me he was listening to Elvis, however, I'd ask him who he was and what has he done with the man I married (not such a fan, that one).

Point goes to Elvis.

Round # 6—Sex Appeal
OK, I guess technically Elvis is the shoe in here. The problem is I was born in 1975 which means I basically only know Elvis in retrospective photos. Yes, teenage Elvis exuded sex on stage, and sure Elvis could wear him some black leather pants, but I've also seen him in photos from the seventies where he was sporting a floppy terrycloth fisherman's cap, about 50 extra pounds, and a goofy George-W-esque expression on his face. And Paul Simon? Um.

A grudging point to Elvis, I guess. Because he was sexy at least once in his life.

Round #7—Songwriting
No surprise here. Paul Simon wrote the vast majority of the music he recorded and Elvis, though a master of the arrangement, did not. Given that I'm a writer running to help writers, it should come as no shock that Paul Simon will get the nod here.

3 points to Paul Simon. Just because.

So there you have it:
Paul Simon: 5 points
Elvis Presley: 4 points.
I think it's fair to say that we've proven in a totally non-biased evaluation that Paul Simon has earned the title of Mr. Marathon.

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