Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new six-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Before his retirement in 2016, Dr. Britton taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Learn more about Dr. Britton at his WEBSITE
Author: Peter Ames Carlin
Homeward Bound isn’t
Peter Ames Carlin’s first large canvas biography of a significant
musical figure. He’s done Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney. I wasn’t
alone in praising his Bruce in my 2012 review of that tome.
For biographers, there’s a major advantage as well as challenge in taking on such popular musicians whose careers span decades and are still ongoing. Springsteen, Wilson, McCartney, and Simon are giants whose biographies and output are epic, significant, and worthy of much more than a year by year breakdown of where they were and what they did. In the case of Paul Simon, I must admit I’ve been following his career since 1965 but not so closely as to consider myself a Simon expert. So, from page one of Homeward Bound on, every section was full of revelations for me. I did not know all the pre-Simon and Garfunkel musical tries Simon made beyond the legendary Tom and Jerry recordings. It was good to read the full account of how “Sounds of Silence” came together in its revised form, even if I already knew the basics of the story. Most importantly, I came to a much better understanding of the evolving relationship between Simon and Artie Garfunkel, especially gaining a much deeper appreciation of Garfunkel’s contributions to the partnership beyond his soaring, angelic voice. Perhaps many readers may be surprised to discover just how apolitical Simon was over the years and, when he did offer opinions, especially regarding South Africa and apartheid, just what his non-liberal beliefs were.
As many other reviewers have already noted, Homeward Bound is a very balanced book which doesn’t veer into fan worship on one side nor does Carlin go on the attack when exposing Simon’s poor treatment of many colleagues and comrades over the years. Carlin is especially good at providing critical analyses of the Simon musical canon with both details of how many songs came to be while he offers appreciative notes on what made them important, or not. Here’s where many readers may wish to match their own views with Carlin’s, although I admit very few times did I disagree with him on any point. Instead, I gained a new appreciation of Rhythm of the Saints and wish I had given more attention to Capeman. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who had to come around to that musical’s songs after hearing them a second time.
Homeward Bound is a long overdue biography which gives an epic subject the epic sweep it deserves, meaning it includes the life of one giant as well as providing a focus on the music Simon has been giving us since the mid-‘60s. I hate to use the term “definitive,” but I doubt Homeward Bound is likely to be superseded anytime soon. I suspect every reader will discover many surprising details, uncover new perspectives, gain a much fuller understanding of the man beneath the myth, and perhaps, like me, be inspired to revisit some of the music of a man much more than a “folk-rock” oracle.