Homeless by Paul Simon and Joseph Shabalala – Lucas

This week I really couldn’t think of a song that dealt with class in the US so I chose to do “Homeless” by Paul Simon and Joseph Shabalala. Joseph Shabalala is the leader of the vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. After seeing this group perform in the documentary The Rhythm of Resistance: The Music of South Africa, Simon was interested in recording with them. This documentary was displaying the resistance to apartheid South Africa through music.  When he travelled to South Africa in 1985 he met with Shabalala and got to listen to all the records the group had made. Simon said, “I was bewitched by Ladysmith Black Mambazo because they were so beautiful. The music was enchanting – it was all a cappella, and it was so beautiful that I was intimidated. They were so good at what they did and it was so contained that I didn’t know at the time how I could possibly fit into their world, and if they wanted me to fit into their world.” Upon returning to the US, Simon wrote the English pieces of “homeless” and recorded them on a tape that he sent to the group in South Africa. The introduction to the song was a traditional weeding son with the words re-written to add to the theme of homelessness and despair. They later recorded the track in Abbey Road studio in London. Shabalala also added lots of other words that used the idea of homelessness and struggle to voice the horrors of apartheid. They were trying to draw attention to the people that had to live with this reality and I think that this song represents a  good bond between an American artist and artists in other places. It helps raise awareness more than it outwardly protests but I think it is a step in the right direction.

“Homeless by Paul Simon Songfacts.” Homeless by Paul Simon Songfacts. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

Paul, Another. “Homeless.” Every Single Paul Simon Song*:. N.p., 22 Sept. 2016. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

1 comment on “Homeless by Paul Simon and Joseph Shabalala – LucasAdd yours →

  1. I have to admit that when it was time to post for this particular week’s theme, I also struggled to settle on a song that dealt with class, specifically in the United States. When I first read your post I was struck not only by the obvious relief that someone else had a hard time selecting a song to write about, but also by the fact that perhaps that struggle is precisely the point – issues of class and consequential disparities demand a transcendence of the very social distinctions that often perpetuate and calcify them to begin with. Although struggles of class import with it an understanding that tangible, stagnant divisions exist along arbitrary class lines, those divisions should not be more powerful than our ability to empathize. Therefore, whatever the plight and its inherent suffering may be, wherever it is occurring, whatever is causing caused it are in some way beside the point, because that strife, that pain is a universal one. This is why I think “Homeless” was a really interesting song to highlight because with lyrics like ‘Somebody cry why, why, why?” and “Many dead, tonight it could be you,” it offers a strong example of issues of class permeating all elements of life and remaining something that anyone has the potential to feel for.

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