Alison Krauss And Shawn Colvin Sing A Sublime Version Of The Boxer At Paul Simon’s Gershwin Prize Concert

In 2007, Paul Simon was the first recipient of the annual Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. “Few songwriters have had a broader influence or contributed more to song genres than Paul Simon. Because of the depth, range and sheer beauty of his music, as well as its ability to bridge peoples and cultures, he is the perfect first recipient of this prestigious award,” James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, said in making the announcement.

To celebrate the award, the Library of Congress organised an all-star gala concert at Warner Arena, Washington DC, in May 2007. In its notes on the resultant DVD, Discogs records that the event has been called “the greatest night of popular music ever presented in our nation’s capital.” The second song of the evening was the Simon & Garfunkel classic The Boxer, beautifully sung and harmonised by Alison Krauss and Shawn Colvin, with a top-notch band including Steve Gadd and Jerry Douglas.

With Gadd on drums and Douglas on dobro, there was never any doubt that the backing would be in the pocket. Speaking of Krauss and Colvin’s vocals, Still Got the Blues states: “Their harmony is just the way this song was intended (and was sung by Simon & Garfunkel).” In this regard, there is a story that is particularly revealing for Music Man readers who know how highly rated Colvin and Krauss (in particular) are rated as singers. The story is from a 2016 Instagram post of the video by Colvin.

n a note next to the video Colvin says how honoured she was to perform The Boxer with Alison Krauss for Paul Simon. She adds: “He even came backstage beforehand and coached us!” Hugh Hemphill quips: “You ain’t nobody in the music biz till PS takes the time to tell you how to do your job better”. From the same event, here is Alison Krauss performing a plaintive, bluegrass-infused reading of Graceland. (There is no truth in the rumour that PS flew in Ray Phiri to give Douglas tips on picking!)

Graceland, the 1986 parent album of the song, was, of course, a major boost to Paul Simon’s solo career and reputation. It was added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2006 and was one of three Paul Simon recordings to win a Grammy for best album. The other two were Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970 with Art Garfunkel) and Still Crazy After All These Years (1976). The Boxer was the first single from Bridge over troubled Water, which it preceded by some time (released March 1969).

Commenting on Alison Krauss and Shawn Colvin’s 2007 cover of The Boxer, YouTube viewer Shannon Burns says, “Jerry Douglas just took every person who ever thought they could play a dobro to school right here. Especially in the last stanza. It was played to utter perfection. The rest there should have been in utter awe. He was on another level.” Wayne Yo6ej goes so far as to say, “The original is very good but this presentation is my favourite. I listen to it almost every day! The harmony, instrumental and voice are masterfully combined”. TCS Cushing is somewhat more balanced. “Thanks to God I got to listen to THIS version, the original Simon & Garfunkel, and the ‘later-in-life’ Madison Square Garden” versions. This has been an important part of a lifetime’s memories. I am blessed.”

On a side note, Jerry Douglas is a long-time member of Alison Krauss’s band Union Station. He is in demand as both a player and a producer and has his own bands The Jerry Douglas Band and The Earls of Leicester.

In conclusion, The Music Man takes this opportunity to congratulate Paul Simon not only on his stellar career, but also on his 2023 album Seven Psalms, the excellent reviews it received, and its high-placing in many 2023 album-of-the-year lists (number 2 in Uncut, 7 in Variety, 8 in Mojo, 4 in New York Times).

If you would like to see more from Alison Krauss, you can subscribe to her YouTube channel. You can also visit her official website for more information.

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