Deep Dive: Paul Simon, Graceland

In 1985, Paul Simon broke the international boycott against South Africa’s racist institution of apartheid.  Simon traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa.  There, he recorded with the Boyoyo Boys Band and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. He also recorded in Los Angeles with Los Lobos.

Controversy surrounded the recordings in several ways.  Several songwriters accused Simon of stealing their work. Both Boyoyo Boys and Los Lobos vocally defended their art.   Simon’s public reaction to these accusations fueled conversation that he appropriated and benefited from other’s art, without proper credit or compensation.

Over the decades since the release of Graceland, public memory faded of valid concerns about the creation and content of the album.  The songs remain Simon’s most recognizable work.  Supporters advocated that black South Africans ultimately benefited from the album. They argued that because it introduced audiences to groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, detractors over-reacted.

 

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