Winter Songs
2:01 pm
Thu February 9, 2012

Winter Songs: Paul Simon, The Bard Of Bad Weather

Originally published on Tue February 14, 2012 1:22 pm

Among the hundreds of songs that remind NPR listeners of winter, one songwriter's name keeps coming up: Paul Simon, who's practically the bard of bad weather. From "Kodachrome" to "Slip Slidin' Away," almost a dozen of the New York musician's tunes were named when we asked for songs that evoke the winter season. Here are just a few of your stories.

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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Now, a listener's choice edition of our Winter Song series.

CORNISH: Among the hundreds of songs you say remind you of the season, one name keeps coming up. Paul Simon. He's practically the bard of bad weather.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A HAZY SHADE OF WINTER")

PAUL SIMON: (Singing) Look around, leaves are brown and the sky is a hazy shade of winter.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE")

SIMON: (Singing) I turn my collar to the cold and damp.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BOXER")

SIMON: (Singing) And I'm laying out my winter clothes and wishing I was gone, going home.

SIEGEL: Most of your suggestions came from his Simon and Garfunkel years and here are just a few of your stories.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I AM A ROCK")

SIMON: (Singing) A winter's day in a deep and dark December.

CORNISH: This was Clara Silverstein's winter anthem.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I AM A ROCK")

SIMON: (Singing) I am alone, gazing from my window to the streets below on a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow. I am a rock. I am an island.

CORNISH: Writing from Auburndale, Maine, Silverstein recalls how she felt as a girl four decades ago, after her father's sudden death. I imagined wandering through Paul Simon's freshly fallen silent shroud of snow, hands jammed in my pockets, shutting out the irritating voices of my mother and sister, the other survivors in my shattered family.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I AM A ROCK")

SIMON: (Singing) I have no need of friendship. Friendship causes pain.

CORNISH: We had moved to Richmond, Virginia from Chicago and I hated the drawl and the yawl of my new classmates. It's laughter and it's loving I disdain, I told myself, trying to freeze the grief that threatened to spill out and reveal me as vulnerable. Silverstein tells us that loneliness was the theme for her Bat Mitzvah service and she played this song, but by the end of the service, she says, I felt less lonely because I had become part of a community. Now, when I hear "I Am A Rock," I pause to celebrate transformation instead of restless winter.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SLIP, SLIDIN' AWAY")

SIEGEL: This song got traction with Cleveland DJs during the blizzard of 1977, so says Joy Gregory, now of Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SLIP, SLIDIN' AWAY")

SIMON: (Singing) Slip, sliding away. Slip, slidin' away. You know, the nearer your destination, the more you're slip, slidin' away.

SIEGEL: Joy Gregory says she heard this song a lot during that storm, but one moment sticks out. She writes, I was sitting in the back seat of our old brown Ford, watching the windshield wipers carve out arcs in the sleet, defroster on full blast, fighting a losing battle against the anxious breath of me and my two brothers, the road salt flecking the car's undercarriage as our dad guided us slowly home through the snow.

Like so many moments in childhood, it felt like an oasis of safety and warmth, surrounded by peril on all sides. Sliding into a tree or another car, stalling out, not making it home, the unpredictable flashes of my dad's anger as he battled the recession that gripped the country.

But, Gregory continues, there were the stranger, more distant perils of adulthood, too, hinted by Paul Simon's lyrics. And, she adds, we were safe for now, but what was coming next? We could only see a few feet in front of us and the road under our searching wheels was a terrain of mystery, the lines hidden in the snow.

CORNISH: Wait. We can't end today's Winter Song listeners' choice edition on such an uncertain note. Let's try this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KODACHROME")

SIMON: (Singing) Kodachrome, you give us those nice, bright colors. You give us the greens of summers. Makes you think all...

CORNISH: A sunny Paul Simon song offered by Robert Ross of Fairfax, Virginia from the days when he was a ski instructor in Vermont. Ross says, I would routinely fall asleep at night listening to music. "Kodachrome" would pick up my spirits, no matter what my mood was and allowed me to fall asleep with happy thoughts.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KODACHROME")

SIMON: (Singing) Mama, don't take my Kodachrome. Mama, don't take my Kodachrome. Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away.

SIEGEL: There - a fitting antidote to the deep and dark, the cold and damp. Thanks for your Winter Song stories. We'll have more before the season's through.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KODACHROME")

SIMON: (Singing) Mama, don't take my Kodachrome. Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.