Something So Right: There Goes Rhymin’ Simon at 50

Looking back on the album that broke Paul Simon out of his own shell

There Goes Rhymin’ Simon magazine ad (Image: Twitter)

By the time There Goes Rhymin’ Simon was released on May 5, 1973, it was clear that Paul Simon had been given a tough act to follow…namely his own.

As if that wasn’t challenging enough, his preceding album and first collection of post-Simon and Garfunkel songs, the eponymous Paul Simon, set a high bar, having shown that Simon was completely capable of pursuing his fortunes entirely on his own, sans any help from his former colleague whatsoever. Yet that partnership would continue to haunt him… and for good reason. Simon and Garfunkel were, after all, an American institution, an essential element in the musical landscape and the decade just past, as well as formative figures in folk’s newer environs.

Nevertheless, Simon himself seemed to downplay any suggestions of the sort. There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, as evidenced by its title alone, had a lighter feel to it, one that aimed for more of a playful posture, and less of a dour demeanor.  That’s not to say it didn’t boast some signature Simon ballads; “American Tune” and “Something So Right” rank among the most stirring and sensitive songs in his catalogue. Each has endured to become two of the more essential songs within Simon’s songbook, no small accomplishment given any comparison to the classics that preceded them. 

Not surprisingly then, the album was a massive success, climbing as high as Number Two on the Billboard Top 200 and even outpacing George Harrison’s Living in the Material World. Then again, the overall tone of the album clearly loaned itself to a mass appeal, middle of the road audience. The songs themselves took on a playful perspective — particularly such tracks as “Loves Me Like a Rock,” “Take Me to the Mardi Gras,” “Kodachrome,” and “Was a Sunny Day,” all of which showed Simon to be far more exuberant and upbeat than he had ever been before, especially in light of Simon and Garfunkel’s earlier output. 

Paul Simon There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, Columbia Records 1973

The accessibility element went well beyond its sales status. The album garnered two 1974 Grammy nominations, one for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male and one for Album of the Year. Likewise, the critics accorded it rave reviews, most declaring that Simon remained on an upward roll, courtesy of a new and seemingly effortlessly engaging approach.

“(It) clinches his position as the top singer-songwriter-producer in contemporary music,” raved Lorraine Alterman in The New York Times.

In a sense, Simon was reinventing himself. For the most part, he was shedding the forlorn image of the disillusioned troubadour ever in search of solace from the torment and turbulence of a harsh, unforgiving world. Rhymin’ Simon was worlds away from the beaten and bruised boxer, the misguided minstrel ever so anxious to journey homeward bound, or a man who viewed friendship simply as another source of pain and punishment. It clearly marked a new phase of his career, one where excellence was the natural standard against which every album that followed would be measured. He’d reach that bar in the years to come — with Graceland, Still Crazy After All These Years, The Rhythm of the Saints and One-trick Pony, all to varying degrees. Yet he’d fail just as often, with Songs from the Capeman, Stranger To Stranger, Surprise and In the Blue Light failing to make any sort of emphatic impression whatsoever. That said, it remains to be seen if his soon-to-be-released offering, Seven Psalms, will measure up to any of his earlier accomplishments. 

Looking back some 50 years, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon remains a landmark of Paul Simon’s career, one that’s still remembered fondly. Those who want to hear the best of Simon’s solo work need look no further. 



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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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