When Paul Simon wanted a rich, ethereal sound for the "lie-lie-lie" vocals on "The Boxer," a studio echo chamber wouldn't do, so he packed up the studio equipment and the Garfunkel, set up in a church, and spent a day recording those syllables to perfection.

In 1984 a friend gave him a tape of South African music called Gumboots: Accordion Jive Hits #2, and he listened to it over and over. For his next album, he wanted that sound - not just guys in New York playing African music, but the actual African musicians he heard on the tape. So in 1985 he went to South Africa and found them. During Apartheid.

This was a time when Nelson Mandela was still in jail and racial tensions in the country were feverous. But that was where the music lived, and Simon was determined to get it. What he found formed the bedrock of the Graceland album, which 25 years later stands as a musical and cultural triumph.

How did Paul Simon pull it off? That story is told in the documentary Under African Skies, available as part of the Graceland 25th Anniversary Box Set, which also includes concert footage from the tour and unreleased songs. Below are some of the true tales from the journey, and some me made up. See if you can tell Fact or Fiction in the 12-question Graceland edition.
Here's where you can get the Graceland 25th Anniversary Edition Box Set.
More Fact or Fiction

Comments: 12

  • Collin M. Williams from Swakopmund,erongo NamibiaLove the album have it on cd
  • Neil from Chicago, IllinoisThe term Gum Shoe dancing is great. It reminds me of when Paul flew the entire entourage to NYC to sing 'Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes', the dancers steps are like they stepped on gum. Still my favorite song / dance routine. I got 8 out of 12 correct .......67%. That's an 'A-' in Chicago, where the Bd of Ed grades on the curve!
  • Yi from TokyoThe last one is a bit tricky. I mean, sure, the whole song isn't just about the "boy in the bubble", it touches many other things, but the phrase itself must be a reference to a kid kept in a bubble for medical treatment.
  • Michael from Vancouver, BcThis was one of earlier cd's and the recording was so detailed and dynamic it sounded so awesome, and still does.
  • Terry from South AfricaI got all of them wrong... and i don't care!
  • Brady from Niagara Falls, Ny9 out of 12. I'll take it; especially after going 6 for 10 on Little? Richard.
  • Laura from El Paso, TxI am not very familiar with the entire album but I do remember the video for "You can call me Al". It had Paul Simon standing next to Chevy Chase both playing instruments and lip synching the song. Chevy Chase being so tall and Paul Simon being so short made for a comical video. It was great!
  • Gerry from Cambridge, EnglandI got every other one wrong, but the quiz was an eye-opener, and it's a great album. Thank you!
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaI like and admire Paul's cross-cultural work with El Condor Pasa and Graceland. I know he gets accused of having no ideas of his own and of exploiting others, but both arguments are wrong. Paul Simon has been one of the more creative and prolific songwriters over the last 40 years. The cultures and artists that he has collaborated with have all benefited immeasurably from the exposure he has given them. All artistic idioms eventually stagnate if they do not cross-pollinate with others, from cuisine to music. Keep cross-pollinating, Paul Simon!!
  • Wicker Green from Montreal CanadaNo matter if the answers are right or wrong as long as you learn something useful.
  • Karen from Manchester, NhI only got 3 wrong, and one I knew was wrong the second I clicked on it. I got the Oprah one wrong, but that's because I don't give a flying tic-turd about her.
  • Mike from Bradenville, PaGreat album..every song is excellent!
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