In 1985, Paul Simon was in trouble. Years past his 70's solo heyday, his last album, "Hearts and Bones" failed to impress either critics or the record-buying public. So he did what any rational artist would do: he went to South Africa.
Inspired by a chance encounter with a cassette of the Boyoyo Boys' instrumental "Gumboots: Accordion Jive Volume II", he embarked on the most adventurous journey of his career, culminating in the unlikely worldwide hit album "Graceland". Backed by new collaborators, including Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Los Lobos, Simon crafted a sound unlike anything that came before it, setting the stage for America's fascination with world music.
Released in August 1986, during the dark days of South Africa's adherence to Apartheid, the controversy surrounding "Graceland" almost overshadowed the music. A defiant Simon embarked on a worldwide tour with most of the album's South African performers, defying decades of unofficial cultural embargo. In 1987, despite many protests, Graceland won the Grammy Award for Best Album. Paul Simon was reborn.
Next year, in celebration of Graceland's 25th anniversary, Sony will release a box-set of the album, complete with outtakes and alternate versions of the material. A documentary filmed this summer is also planned for inclusion. The film follows Simon as he returns to South Africa (with many of the musicians featured on the album) to perform a concert for approximately 300 eager fans. Directed by Joe Berlinger (Some Kind of Monster), the documentary is also expected to play at selected film festivals.
"The documentary took me back to the artistic aspects and the political aspects of making Graceland and the controversy that surrounded it and how it was resolved, plus what remains of it and what we learn from it."
Although no dates have been confirmed, a world-wide tour in support of the box-set is reportedly in the works. The tour is expected to include much of Simon's original Graceland touring band, including Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Simon's just-finished tour in support of his recent album "So Beautiful or So What" saw him performing several classic l Graceland tracks nightly, including "I Know What I Know", "The Boy in The Bubble" and perennial fan-favorite "You Can Call Me Al".