Fresh from its run at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, the new touring exhibit Paul Simon: Words & Music has opened at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles — making its only West Coast stop.
On display through September 10, the exhibit chronicles Simon’s life and creative process through autobiographical films, concert footage, and more than 80 artifacts. Simon helps tell his own story through exclusive interviews — gathered by the show’s curators at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum — which aim to illustrate how his music reflects social and cultural ideals.
Several of Simon’s iconic guitars are on display: his first-ever guitar, a beat-up Stadium; the 1967 Guild F-30-NT that he used to write and record most of Simon & Garfunkel’s canon; and a black Yamaha signature series custom acoustic.
On his first guitar, Simon notes, “It was a present for my thirteenth birthday. I was a fan of Elvis by then, and I expressed some interest in playing guitar. My dad was a musician, and he bought me the guitar. It cost $50 or something like that. It’s a cheap guitar, a Stadium. I never heard of that make. It has that kind of look of those guitars you bought in the five-and-dime store. But I loved it. The first thing I did was to try and tune it, and I broke a string.”
The exhibit also includes several ’60s-era photographs of Simon holding acoustic guitars and handwritten lyrics to some of his best-loved songs such as “The Boxer” and “American Tune.” —Whitney Phaneuf