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‘Cool Papa Bell’, A New Song From Paul Simon’s Upcoming Album


Paul Simon is about to release a new album ‘Stranger to Stranger’, and if we have already heard one of the songs, ‘Wristband’, here is another track called, in a very Simon-type of-phrasing, ‘Cool Papa Bell’.

If the title is very Simon-esque, the music is too, it could be a Graceland leftover, or an upgraded version, with buoyant and busy arrangements (may be too busy?), a tropical and playful melody, filled with these happy Africanized layers, a super bouncy kind of song, but also disconcerting at times with surprising tempo changes and almost-spoken words. It’s typical Paul Simon and at the same time it’s different, should we be surprised to hear words like ‘bullshit’ and ‘motherfucker’ in a Paul Simon song? Probably, but be reassured it’s safe and it works like a poetry on a loop, about a baseball player. At least this is what Paul reveals in his album liner notes:

‘Cool Papa Bell was a baseball player in the Negro Leagues from 1922 to 1950. He was considered one of the fastest men ever to play the game. Legend has it the Bell could turn off a light switch and be in bed before the light went out. He once bunted a triple. A friend gave me a painting of Cool Papa Bell, and somehow he found his way into a song.’

The lyrics are funny, cryptic and as playful as the song ‘It’s not like every rodent gets a birthday cake/No, it’s, You’re a chipmunk, how cute is that?/But you, you motherfucker, are a filthy rat’… But Simon seems to have written an optimistic song with a few thoughtful lines about mortality: ‘Have you all heard the news: Heaven Finally Found/Ok, it’s six trillion light years away/But we’re all gonna get there someday/Yes, we’re all gonna get there one day.’

A new Paul Simon album is always good news and at 74, the famous songwriter doesn’t seem to slow down, as beside touring and recording new music, he has also a new project, a new biography from former Times music critic Robert Hilburn. According to the LA Times, Simon had considered writing an autobiography himself but instead chose to cooperate with Hilburn because ‘I’d rather devote my time to making music, which continues to hold my full attention.’ As this new album demonstrates it fully. ‘Stranger to Stranger’ will be out on June 3rd via Concord, and was produced by Simon himself along with Roy Halee.

‘Stranger to Stranger’ tracklist
01 The Werewolf
02 Wristband
03 The Clock
04 Street Angel
05 Stranger to Stranger
06 In a Parade
07 Proof of Love
08 In the Garden of Edie
09 The Riverbank
10 Cool Papa Bell
11 Insomniac’s Lullaby

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