The Obvious Child

Album: The Rhythm Of The Saints (1990)
Charted: 15 92


  • In this song, an intriguing phrase is repeated: "The cross is in the ballpark." When asked of its meaning, Simon answered, "The cross, the burden that we carry, is in the ballpark, it's doable." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jim Waverly - Kansas City, KS
  • Following the success of 1986's Graceland, on which he worked principally with South African musicians, Simon turned to Latin America for much of The Rhythm of the Saints. The drums for this song were recorded live at Pelourinho Square in the Brazilian city of Salvador. They were played by the Afro-Brazilian group Grupo Cultural Olodum, who are masters of the heavily percussive sub-style of samba called Batuque. Simon recalled to Mojo magazine July 2011: "One day we were driving through the old part of Salvador in Bahia when we heard this incredible drumming coming from Pelouinho Square. It was the group Olodum practising outside and (Simon's percussionist) Mazzola asked if we could record them. We did it in their back yard, just rented a couple of 8-tracks, and that was our backing-track for 'The Obvious Child.'"

Comments: 7

  • Brian from La Mesa, CaThe style of drumming is called samba reggae. It is music influenced by Jamaican reggae, but played on samba drums. It evolved from bloco afro rhythms of Ile Aiye in the 1970s, but reached its final development under the late Neguinho de Samba, the director of Olodum, in the early '80s. Michael Jackson also used Olodum's drums for "They Don't Care About Us". The opening high drum in "Obvious Child" is a repique - possibly played by Neguinho de Samba himself - and the pattern is typical of Olodum call-ins, likewise with the break. This is a batucada exercise. In the Central Park concert, Olodum plays with Paul live, but the drumming is half a measure off. I don't know if the American musicians came in wrong (the Olodum intro begins on the 3rd beat) or if they decided to play it this way. In that gig, Neguinho de Samba plays the timbales. I have my own history with Olodum. As the leader of a samba reggae group in San Diego, I had some opportunities to take lessons from Olodum, hang out with them, and even perform with them once. One of their lead singers sang vocals with my band in some gigs.
  • Karen from Silver Spring, MdThe drums are by the Bahia Brazil band Olodum.
  • Mikeymouse from New York, NyAre you sure about the autobiographical part? He writes a lot of fiction, mixed with poetry about himself... that part of the song about Sunny's hair seems to be about getting older, taking stock of where your life has been spurred by thinking about where the lives of your contemporaries have been... the hair seems like imagery that goes to make that point.
  • Rodimusben from Harrisonburg, VaThis song is one of Paul Simon's best. From the collaborations to the wildly varied and experimental sounds, The Rhythm of the Saints stands toe-to-toe with Graceland as one of his all-time best efforts. I dare you listen to the drums in The Obvious Child and not be stirred.
  • Kevin from Reading , PaI didn't think Artie was wearing hair, I just thought he puffed it up and still has enough to sort of fill-in the middle. Not so sure that my English friend is right on this one.
  • Sara Mackenzie from Middle Of Nowhere, Flinteresting song. you might be right though: this song is autobiographical.
  • John from Guildford, EnglandThis song is at least party autobiogaphical, especially the lines 'Sunny wanders beyond his interior room, runs his hands through his thinning brown hair'. Paul's hair had been thinning since the 70s, and after trying a comb-over and a hair-piece, he finally took to wearing a baseball cap before doing what the rest of us do and just face the world with it, as he did on the Simon and Garfunkel tour.
    Ironically, no-one seems to have spotted that Garfunkel was wearing a hair-piece (those natural curls are long gone!).
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Jimmy Jam

Jimmy JamSongwriter Interviews

The powerhouse producer behind Janet Jackson's hits talks about his Boyz II Men ballads and regrouping The Time.

Joan Armatrading

Joan ArmatradingSongwriter Interviews

The revered singer-songwriter talks inspiration and explains why she put a mahout in "Drop the Pilot."


AC/DCFact or Fiction

Does Angus really drink himself silly? Did their name come from a sewing machine? See if you can spot the real stories about AC/DC.

Dave Edmunds

Dave EdmundsSongwriter Interviews

A renowned guitarist and rock revivalist, Dave took "I Hear You Knocking" to the top of the UK charts and was the first to record Elvis Costello's "Girls Talk."

Jello Biafra

Jello BiafraSongwriter Interviews

The former Dead Kennedys frontman on the past, present and future of the band, what music makes us "pliant and stupid," and what he learned from Alice Cooper.

Def Leppard Quiz

Def Leppard QuizMusic Quiz

Can you name Def Leppard's only #1 hit in America? Get rocked with this adrenalized quiz.