- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2002

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has exchanged one Paul for another, selecting singer-songwriter Paul Simon to replace Sir Paul McCartney as the musical member of its Honors class of 2002.

Kennedy Center Chairman James A. Johnson, announcing the addition to the list of this year's honorees, yesterday called Mr. Simon "a songwriter who helped shape several generations of young Americans."

Mr. Simon, 60, who could not be reached yesterday, issued a statement saying he felt blessed by the selection.

"I am honored and look forward to a wonderful weekend," Mr. Simon said.

The switch became necessary when Mr. McCartney withdrew from the annual awards ceremony last week because of a scheduling conflict. The former Beatle will be honored in the 2003 ceremony.

Kennedy Center Honors recipients are recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts, whether in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures or television. This year's honorees include James Levine, James Earl Jones, Chita Rivera and Elizabeth Taylor.

The honors will be bestowed for the 25th time on Dec. 7 at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. President Bush and his wife, Laura, will host a gala the following night.

Few musical careers have hit as many high notes as Mr. Simon's. He was inducted last year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Newark, N.J., native began songwriting at an early age, often with his Forest Hills High School pal Art Garfunkel.

The folk-rock duo first performed as Tom and Jerry but split to pursue separate projects. They later reunited under the Simon and Garfunkel moniker, which quickly became synonymous with timeless, buoyant melodies.

Their songs "Sound of Silence," "Mrs. Robinson" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" echoed the turbulence of the 1960s.

The marriage of their music and Dustin Hoffman's performance as a disillusioned everyman made the 1967 film "The Graduate" a cultural marker for millions.

"Mrs. Robinson" became a smash, and its nod to baseball great Joe DiMaggio would echo for decades witness Mr. Simon's 1999 performance of the song at Yankee Stadium during a tribute to the late Yankee Clipper.

"Joltin' Joe has left and gone away," he sang as baseball fans winced and wept.

Simon and Garfunkel disintegrated in 1971, but Mr. Simon's music career continued. He added new textures to his songs with every release.

Traditional hits like "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" and "Kodachrome" eventually gave way to more experimental fare.

In 1986, "Graceland" spawned the horn-driven hit "You Can Call Me Al" and a cultural bridge to South African music. Its follow-up, 1990's "Rhythm of the Saints," fused Brazilian drumming with West African guitars for yet another wrinkle to his dynamic sound.

In between, he reteamed with Mr. Garfunkel for 1981's concert in Central Park. The New York affair attracted a half-million fans, but personal conflicts between the two precluded them from a return to the recording studio.

Mr. Simon hit a rare sour note in 1998 with his Broadway play "The Capeman," a massive flop that lost $11 million amidst savage reviews and criticism that the show glamorized a murderer. The production told the story of Salvador "The Capeman" Agron, who in 1959 stabbed and killed two teenagers.

The singer rebounded musically with 2000's "You're the One."

The Honors Gala will be telecast on CBS in December.

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