Graceland (album)

Graceland (album)
Studio album by Paul Simon
Released August 12, 1986
Recorded October 1985-June 1986
Genre Worldbeat, Pop
Length 43:18
Label Warner Bros.
Producer Paul Simon
Paul Simon chronology
Hearts & Bones
Negotiations and Love Songs

Graceland is the seventh studio album by American folk musician Paul Simon, released in August 1986.

It was a hit, topping the UK Album Chart, and reaching number three on the US Billboard 200. The album won the 1986 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, while the title song won the 1987 Grammy for Record of the Year. In 2007, the album was added to the United States National Recording Registry, along with another 24 significant recordings that year. It is included in many "best of" and "greatest" album lists including both Rolling Stone's[1] and Time's[2].




Coming at a time when Simon's musical career was at something of a low ebb following the disappointing public response to Hearts and Bones, the project was originally inspired by Simon's listening to a cassette of the Boyoyo Boys instrumental "Gumboots", lent to him by Heidi Berg, a singer-songwriter with whom Simon was working (and who would later become an award-winning jingle singer and writer). Simon later wrote lyrics to sing over a re-recording of the song, which became the fourth track on the album.


Graceland features an eclectic mixture of musical styles including pop, a cappella, isicathamiya, rock, and mbaqanga. Much of the album was recorded in South Africa, and it features many South African musicians and groups. Simon faced accusations that he had broken the cultural boycott imposed by the rest of the world against the apartheid regime in South Africa, which was in its final years at the time. This view was not supported by the United Nations Anti-Apartheid Committee, as the album showcased the talents of the black South African musicians while offering no support to the South African government. The worldwide success of the album introduced some of the musicians, especially the vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, to global audiences of their own. Simon included American 'roots' influences with tracks featuring Zydeco and Tex-Mex musicians. The Everly Brothers sing harmony on the title track. Linda Ronstadt appears on the track "Under African Skies", the second verse of which Simon wrote based on her childhood experiences.

Songwriting credit dispute with Los Lobos

The group Los Lobos appear on the last track, "All Around the World or The Myth of Fingerprints." According to Los Lobos's saxophone player Steve Berlin, Simon stole the song from Los Lobos, giving them no songwriting credit:[3]

"It was not a pleasant deal for us. I mean he [Simon] quite literally — and in no way do I exaggerate when I say — he stole the songs from us... We go into the studio, and he had quite literally nothing. I mean, he had no ideas, no concepts, and said, 'Well, let's just jam.' ...Paul goes, 'Hey, what's that?' We start playing what we have of it, and it is exactly what you hear on the record. So we're like, 'Oh, ok. We'll share this song.' ...A few months later, the record comes out and says 'Words and Music by Paul Simon.' We were like, 'What the fuck is this?' We tried calling him, and we can't find him. Weeks go by and our managers can't find him. We finally track him down and ask him about our song, and he goes, 'Sue me. See what happens.'" [4]

Paul Simon answered:

"I just said at this stage I don't care whether the album comes out without Los Lobos on it. I was getting really tired of it—I don't want to get into a public slanging match over this, but this thing keeps coming up. So we finished the recordings. And three months passed, and there was no mention of 'joint writing.' The album came out and we heard nothing. Then six months passed and Graceland had become a hit and the first thing I heard about the problem was when my manager got a lawyer's letter. I was shocked. They sent this thing to my manager, not me. If there was a problem, they could have contacted me direct. They've got my home number; we talked a lot. If you ask me, it was a lawyer's idea. You know, 'The record's a hit, and there's $100,000 in it.' They had nine months from the recordings to talk to me about all this, but I heard nothing. And it's still not sorted out, because they still keep bringing it up—I heard they'd done this interview for you. I don't want to get into a public slanging match with them, because I really like their music." [5][broken citation]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[6]
Robert Christgau (A)[7]
Rolling Stone (Very favorable)[8]

Graceland was Paul Simon's highest charting album in the U.S. in over a decade, reaching #3 in the national Billboard charts, receiving a certification of 5× Platinum by the RIAA and eventually selling over 14 million copies, making it Simon's most commercially successful album. Critics welcomed its eclectic mix of sounds and broad, quirky subject matter and it regularly shows up in critic polls and "recommended" lists. The album also helped to draw worldwide attention to the music of South Africa.

The album drew accolades from the beginning. Rolling Stone called it "lovely, daring and accomplished"[8] and Robert Christgau enthused it was "so strange, so sweet, so willful, so radically incongruous and plainly beautiful."[7] It was so acclaimed by other critics that he later anticipated that it would top The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll for that year (1986).[9]

I don't like the idea that people who aren't adolescents make records. Adolescents make the best records. Except for Paul Simon. Except for Graceland. He's hit a new plateau there, but he's writing to his own age group. Graceland is something new. That song to his son is just as good as "Blue Suede Shoes": "Before you were born dude when life was great." That's just as good as "Blue Suede Shoes," and that is a new dimension.

Joe Strummer interviewed by Richard Cromelin for the Los Angeles Times on January 31, 1988[10]

In the Graceland Classic Albums video, Simon states that he considers the title track the best song he has ever written. A popular music video starring Simon and Chevy Chase was made for the hit song "You Can Call Me Al". Simon toured the album extensively, featuring many of the artists from the album in addition to exiled South Africans Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba. Two concerts in Harare, Zimbabwe, were filmed in 1987 for release as "The African Concert". The audience was a multi-racial mix with many travelling from South Africa.

The success of the album earned Paul Simon the Best International Solo Artist award at The Brit Awards in 1987.[11]


  • In 1998, Q magazine readers voted it the 56th greatest album of all time. In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at #39 in its list of "40 Best Albums of the '80s".[12]
  • It was also ranked #84 in a 2005 survey held by British television's Channel 4 to determine the 100 greatest albums of all time.
  • In 1989, it was rated #5 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 Best Albums of the Eighties.[13]
  • It is #81 on the list of Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time as "an album about isolation and redemption that transcended "world music" to become the whole world's soundtrack."[1]
  • The song "Graceland" was voted #485 in the list of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • According to, a site which combines hundreds of best-of lists from critics and musicians from around the world, Graceland is ranked at #76 on the greatest albums of all time. It is also ranked #14 for albums released in the 1980s, and it is the second-highest ranking album of 1986, behind The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead).
  • In 2002, Pitchfork named it the 85th best album of the 1980s citing it as "a phenomenal musical achievement".[14]
  • In 2006, Time named it one of the All-Time 100 Albums.[2]

Track listing

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "The Boy in the Bubble"   Forere Motloheloa, Paul Simon 3:59
2. "Graceland"   Simon 4:48
3. "I Know What I Know"   General MD Shirinda, Simon 3:13
4. "Gumboots"   Lulu Masilela, Jonhjon Mkhalali, Simon 2:44
5. "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes"   Joseph Shabalala, Simon 5:45
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
6. "You Can Call Me Al"   Simon 4:39
7. "Under African Skies"   Simon 3:37
8. "Homeless"   Shabalala, Simon 3:48
9. "Crazy Love, Vol. II"   Simon 4:18
10. "That Was Your Mother"   Simon 2:52
11. "All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints"   Simon 3:15

Additional tracks

  • A 2004 CD reissue of the album includes three previously-unreleased bonus tracks:
No. Title Writer(s) Length
12. "Homeless" (demo version) Shabalala, Simon 2:28
13. "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" (alternate version) Shabalala, Simon 4:43
14. "All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints" (early version) Simon 3:17

An extended version of "The Boy In The Bubble" was released on vinyl clocking in at 6:13, including a heavier focus on rhythms between the verses. This was digitally released only on a now-out-of-print CD5, although it has been uploaded to YouTube.



Grammy Awards

Year Nominated work Award Result
1987 Graceland Album of the Year[15] Won
"Graceland" Song of the Year[16] Nominated
Best Pop Vocal Performance - Male[16] Nominated
1988 Record of the Year[15] Won

Chart performance

Chart positions

Chart (1986) Position
Australian Albums Chart[17] 1
Canadian Albums Chart[18] 1
Dutch Albums Chart[19] 1
French Albums Chart [20] 1
New Zealand Albums Chart [21] 1
Swiss Albums Chart[22] 1
UK Albums Chart [23] 1
German Albums Chart [24] 2
Austrian Albums Chart[25] 3
U.S. Billboard Pop Albums[26] 3
Italian Albums Chart[27] 4
Finnish Albums Chart[28] 7
Norwegian Albums Chart[29] 13
Swedish Albums Chart[30] 13
Japanese Albums Chart[31] 46
Chart (2011) Position
Irish Albums Chart[32] 61

Year-end charts

Chart (1986) Position
UK Albums Chart[33] 4
Chart (1987) Position
US Albums Chart[34] 2
Swiss Albums Chart[35] 3
Australian Albums Chart[17] 4
Austrian Albums Chart[36] 12
UK Albums Chart[37] 14


Region Certification Sales/shipments
France (SNEP)[38] Platinum 300,000*
Germany (BVMI)[39] 3× Gold 300,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[40] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[41] 5× Platinum 1,500,000^
United States (RIAA)[42] 5× Platinum 5,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ a b Levy, Joe; Steven Van Zandt (2006) [2005]. "81 | Graceland - Paul Simon". Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (3rd ed.). London: Turnaround. ISBN 1932958614. OCLC 70672814. Retrieved 7 January 2006. 
  2. ^ a b Tyrangiel, Josh (November 2, 2006). "Graceland - The ALL-TIME 100 Albums". Time.,28804,1955625_1955762_1956459,00.html. Retrieved 23 May 2008. 
  3. ^ Caffrey, Scott (2006.11.03). "Lone Wolf: Hangin' With Steve Berlin". JamBase. 
  4. ^ WFMU's Beware of the Blog: Rhymin' Simon: Not Welcome in East L.A
  5. ^ WFMU's Paul Simon's answer (The Dreamer of Music)
  6. ^ Ruhlmann, William. Graceland (album) at Allmusic. Retrieved 22 January 2005.
  7. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Paul Simon > Consumer Guide Reviews". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 7 January 2006. 
  8. ^ a b Tannenbaum, Rob (October 23, 1986). "Paul Simon Graceland > Album Review". Rolling Stone (485). Archived from the original on 25 October 2007. Retrieved 7 January 2006.  Posted January 21, 1997
  9. ^ "The 1986 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. March 3, 1987. Retrieved 21 March 2005. 
  10. ^ Cromelin, Richard (31 January 1988). "Strummer on Man, God, Law and the Clash". Los Angeles Times. 
  11. ^ "The BRITs 1987". 
  12. ^ Q August 2006, Issue 241
  13. ^ Azerrad, Michael; DeCurtis, Anthony (November 16, 1989). "The 100 Best Albums of the Eighties: 5 | Paul Simon, 'Graceland'". Rolling Stone (565): p. 53. Retrieved 12 December 2006. 
  14. ^ Tangari, Joe (November 20, 2002). "Top 100 Albums of the 1980s: 085: Paul Simon Graceland". Pitchfork. Retrieved 23 May 2008. 
  15. ^ a b "Past Winners Search". Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  16. ^ a b "Rock On The Net: 29th Annual Grammy Awards - 1987". Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  17. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0646119176. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ " Paul Simon - Graceland". MegaCharts. Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  20. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste : Paul Simon". Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  21. ^ " - Paul Simon - Graceland". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  22. ^ "Paul Simon - Graceland -". Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  23. ^ "Chart Stats - Paul Simon - Graceland". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  24. ^ "Album Search: Paul Simon" (in German). Media Control. Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  25. ^ "Paul Simon - Graceland -". Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  26. ^ Allmusic - Graceland > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums
  27. ^
  28. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006) (in Finnish). Sisältää hitin - levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (1st ed.). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. p. 263. ISBN 13-978-951-1-21053-5. 
  29. ^ " Paul Simon - Graceland". Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  30. ^ " Paul Simon - Graceland". Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  31. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970-2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4871310779. 
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Best-selling albums of 1986. - BBC". Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  34. ^ "Year End Charts - Year-end Albums - The Billboard 200". Archived from the original on 2007-12-22. Retrieved 2009-08-06. 
  35. ^ " - Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1987". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  36. ^ " - Jahreshitparade 1987". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  37. ^ "UK best albums 1987". Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  38. ^ "French album certifications – Paul Simon – Graceland" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. 
  39. ^ "German album certifications – Paul Simon – Graceland" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. 
  40. ^ "Dutch album certifications – Paul Simon – Graceland" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. 
  41. ^ "British album certifications – Paul Simon – Graceland". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Graceland in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Click Go
  42. ^ "American album certifications – Paul Simon – Graceland". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

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