Cool Papa Bell

Album: Stranger to Stranger (2016)

Songfacts®:

  • This song is a tropical ode to James Thomas "Cool Papa" Bell (1903-1991) who was a center fielder in the Negro Leagues of American baseball from the 1920s through 1940s. One of the best players in the game, his career was winding down by 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, becoming the first black man to play Major League Baseball. Since his exploits were not closely followed by the mainstream press, word of Bell spread mostly through legend. In this song, Simon builds on that legend, taking on the character of Bell, dropping a few f-bombs and ordering the listener to "check out my tattoo."

    "Legend has it the Bell could turn off a light switch," Simon wrote in the liner notes, "and be in bed before the light went out. He once bunted a triple. A friend gave me a painting of Cool Papa Bell, and somehow he found his way into a song."
  • This is Paul Simon's first biographically inspired song since the 1983 Heart and Bones track "Rene and Georgette Magritte."
  • This isn't the first time Simon namechecked a baseball player in a song. He famously sang, "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?" in the Simon & Garfunkel hit "Mrs. Robinson."

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

The Truth Is Out There: A History of Alien Songs

The Truth Is Out There: A History of Alien SongsSong Writing

The trail runs from flying saucer songs in the '50s, through Bowie, blink-182 and Katy Perry.

Sam Phillips

Sam PhillipsSongwriter Interviews

Collaborating with T Bone Burnett, Leslie Phillips changed her name and left her Christian label behind - Robert Plant, who recorded one of her songs on Raising Sand, is a fan.

Dwight Twilley

Dwight TwilleySongwriter Interviews

Since his debut single "I'm On Fire" in 1975, Dwight has been providing Spinal-Tap moments and misadventure.

John Lee Hooker

John Lee HookerSongwriter Interviews

Into the vaults for Bruce Pollock's 1984 conversation with the esteemed bluesman. Hooker talks about transforming a Tony Bennett classic and why you don't have to be sad and lonely to write the blues.

The End Of The Rock Era

The End Of The Rock EraSong Writing

There are no more rock stars - the last one died in 1994.

Dino Cazares of Fear Factory

Dino Cazares of Fear FactorySongwriter Interviews

The guitarist/songwriter explains how he came up with his signature sound, and deconstructs some classic Fear Factory songs.