By Tammy Scileppi
Imagine what legendary artist and “Queens boy” Paul Simon must be thinking as he prepares for his historic farewell concert at Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the final performance of his “Homeward Bound” tour, set for September 22.
What an emotional time it must be for the singer and songwriter. After all, that location is just a stone’s throw from where he grew up and isn’t far from Forest Hills High School and Queens College, his alma maters.
It seems like destiny. Simon came of age singing and playing the guitar in his family’s modest Kew Gardens Hills home in the ‘50s. And, as fate would have it, he happened to live next to his soon to be friend, Art Garfunkel, who also had a good voice. As teens, the two started a duo called Tom and Jerry, singing doo wop.
After Simon and Garfunkel continued to connect musically and professionally, they took their show on the road and folks everywhere couldn’t get enough of their sound.
After a while, Simon went solo. There was no stopping him. The beloved singer and performer was worshipped by millions of music lovers and his iconic songs have been described as some of the most important ones written by any artist during the rock era.
It seemed as if the music gods had smiled down upon this dynamic star. He possessed a rare sense of poetry and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice after winning 16 Grammys, three of those for Album of the Year. His unforgettable “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” sold an estimated 25 million copies worldwide. “Graceland” sold an estimated 14 million.
Fast forward 50-plus years and “Homeward Bound – The Farewell Performance” will be a celebration of a renowned touring career that began in the 1960s. As Simon looks back at his amazing musical achievements, perhaps with a tear in his eye, is he feeling a sense of sadness, now that this awesome journey is coming to an end, as well as a sense of excitement as he gets ready to return to the place where it all began?
No doubt, his final ‘so long’ will be shared by thousands who have loved his music from the start.
Simon’s band will bring to the stage a memorable, career-spanning repertoire of timeless hits and classics, as well as a unique selection of songs the artist has chosen for this once-in-a-lifetime show.
This performance will be the first major concert event at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in decades.
“Queens adores the fact that Paul Simon has chosen to come home for the final concert of his Farewell Tour. As a lifelong fan, I am absolutely thrilled,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said. “The news, however, is bittersweet. The city of New York could have – and should have – turned this long-anticipated homecoming of Paul Simon into a free concert for all in the park, not limited to those who can afford to pay concert ticket prices at the expense of the surrounding community. In fairness to all New Yorkers, the city should figure out a way to make this historic performance free and accessible to everyone.”
As of this writing, there is no word yet on that, according to Katz’s office.
Katz previously outlined her concerns and the need for the city to develop a consistent policy and selection process for applications from for-profit companies to run paid admission events in our public parks, in a couple of media outlets.
“Everybody knows Paul Simon’s music. He is a local product as some of his songs, such as ‘Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,’ reflect. So, it’s simply fantastic that he is returning to his home borough for the final concert of his illustrious career,” said Rob MacKay, director of tourism at Queens Economic Development Corporation. “The salmon has swum upstream, and I hope residents flock to his show and treat him with tremendous respect.”
Even Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in.
“When Paul Simon sings ‘Homeward Bound’ there’s no doubt he means New York City,” he said on Twitter June 20. “Join us in welcoming the legendary songwriter home to Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the final performance of his farewell tour!”
The event is produced by The Bowery Presents and Madison House Presents, New York City’s premier concert producers. The artist will be donating all personal net-proceeds from the event to a previously-selected cause, which will be announced at a later date.
“In summer, there’s no better place to enjoy live music than outdoors in a city park, and what a night this will be,” said city Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver. “Thank you, Paul.”
Upon the announcement of his Farewell Tour this past February, Simon wrote the following letter to his fans:
“I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to reach the point where I’d consider bringing my performing career to a natural end. Now I know: it feels a little unsettling, a touch exhilarating, and something of a relief.
“I love making music, my voice is still strong, and my band is a tight, extraordinary group of gifted musicians. I think about music constantly. Sadly, we lost our lead guitarist and my friend of 30 years, Vincent N’guini, who died last December. His loss is not the only reason I’ve decided to stop touring, but it is a contributing factor. Mostly, though, I feel the travel and time away from my wife and family takes a toll that detracts from the joy of playing. I’d like to leave with a big Thank You to the many folks around the world who’ve come out to watch me play over the last 50 years.
“After this coming tour, I anticipate doing the occasional performance in a (hopefully) acoustically pristine hall, and to donate those earnings to various philanthropic organizations, particularly those whose objective is to save the planet, ecologically. Once again, I am very grateful for a fulfilling career and, of course, most of all to the audiences who heard something in my music that touched their hearts.
“It seems more like fate than coincidence that I should do the final show on this final tour at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. I could have ridden my bike from home to the park in about 20 minutes, when I was a kid. But this is less a goodbye than a farewell. Thank you all for the ride, I had a great time.”
For tickets, visit www.axs.com/events/356590/paul-simon-tickets.