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​Celebrate Paul Simon’s 80th Birthday With These 8 Great On-Screen Appearances

From hilarious appearances on 'SNL' to a terrific documentary about the making of 'Graceland,' this is all-fans-on-deck viewing​

Paul Simon

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

On Oct. 13, Paul Simon turns the big 8-0, and his career has been going improbably strong since Simon & Garfunkel released their first LP back in 1964. You certainly know many of his greatest hits — from the gentle folk tunes of his early duo days to the African-tinged pop of Graceland — but this list is dedicated to everything else the 16-time Grammy winner has done over the decades, from his recorded concerts and documentaries to his iconic film and TV appearances. Here are eight videos to stream to celebrate the music legend’s 80th birthday.

Saturday Night Live (1975-2018) 

Lorne Michaels, 76, and Paul Simon have been friends for decades, and that relationship has landed the singer on the sketch comedy hit many times since the 1970s — four times officially as host, nine times as musical guest, and as a cameo performer on various occasions. From his first taped appearance in the 1975 pilot to his most recent performance as a musical guest on his 77th birthday in 2018, he has racked up a slew of memorable moments: He performed in a full turkey costume on a Thanksgiving episode, inducted Justin Timberlake into the Five-Timers Club, and movingly sang “The Boxer” for first responders on the first episode back after 9/11. 

Watch it: SNL episodes on Hulu, Peacock

Annie Hall (1977) 

Simon had a small but pivotal role in the Woody Allen (85) rom-com classic as sleazy L.A. record producer Tony Lacey. Surrounded by an entourage of beautiful people, he compliments Annie (Diane Keaton, 75) on her singing with the hilariously meaningless line, “I thought it was very musical,” before inviting her and Alvy (Allen) back to the Pierre to meet “Jack and Angelica” for drinks. Later, at a party at his house, Tony says, “I used to live [in New York] for years. You know, but it’s gotten … it’s so dirty now.” His other complaint about the Big Apple? “You wanna see a movie, you have to stand in a long line.” There’s something perfectly ironic about casting the quintessential New York artist as a symbol of all that’s wrong — in Allen’s eyes — with L.A. types.  

Watch it: Annie Hall on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube 


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One-Trick Pony (1980)

Simon wrote this music-filled drama, in which he stars as a fading folk rocker named Jonah Levin, who’s facing a bit of a career slump. He filled the cast with a number of fellow musicians, including Lou Reed as a trendy record producer and the B-52’s as themselves (Jonah opens for them at a concert in Cleveland), while a later scene at a “Salute to the Sixties” industry event includes performances by Sam & Dave, The Lovin’ Spoonful and Tiny Tim. That year, Simon also released an album of the same name, featuring different versions of the songs in the film, and “Late in the Evening” went on to hit number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and snagged a Grammy nomination. 

Watch it: One-Trick Pony on Amazon Prime


The Muppet Show (1980) 

His early folk songs may be earnest and heartfelt, but that didn’t stop Simon from getting into the zany spirit of The Muppet Show when he hosted in the fifth season. In the cold open, he finds stage doorman Pops trying to fix a lever; the singer pulls it, causing Pops to fall through a trapdoor. “I love it,” Simon quips, “but of course, I know 50 ways to love your lever.” Later, he gets arrested for unlicensed lute-playing while performing “Scarborough Fair” in a Renaissance scene and feuds with Gonzo when the blue Muppet writes new lyrics to his song “El Condor Pasa.” 

Watch it: The Muppet Show on Disney+

Simon & Garfunkel: The Concert in Central Park (1982)

In September 1981, 11 years after they officially split, Simon & Garfunkel reunited for a free benefit concert on the Great Lawn in Central Park that attracted an astounding half-million attendees — one of the largest gatherings in music history. The 21-song setlist included tunes they recorded together, solo hits, and covers, and the concert was later shown on HBO and released as a live album, which went double platinum. The success of the show led to a subsequent world tour, but Simon and Art Garfunkel, 79, couldn’t quite work out their personal tensions to make the reunion more permanent. In the end, their cover of the Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up Little Susie” became the duo’s last Top 40 hit together.

Watch it: Simon & Garfunkel: The Concert in Central Park on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube

Paul Simon & Friends: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song (2007)

In 2007, the Library of Congress awarded Simon its first Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. To celebrate the occasion, they put together a star-studded concert that featured gorgeous covers of his songs by the likes of Alison Krauss (50), Stevie Wonder (71), Lyle Lovett (63), James Taylor (73), and Marc Anthony (53), who had starred in Simon’s ill-fated Broadway musical The Capeman. Simon himself appeared for a rousing set that included “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” alongside the South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and a showstopping “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with Garfunkel.

Watch it: Paul Simon & Friends: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song on Pluto TV, Tubi, YouTube


Under African Skies (2012)

Simon’s big comeback album, 1986’s Graceland, often ranks among the greatest albums ever released, but it was not without its critics at the time: Simon had flown to South Africa to record with musicians there, which was seen as violating the UN’s cultural boycott of the apartheid-era country. Twenty-five years later, this documentary by director Joe Berlinger, 59, sees Simon contending with the album’s legacy, as he returns to South Africa for a reunion concert and meets with Dali Tambo, 62, who founded Artists Against Apartheid. Cultural figures as diverse as Maya Angelou, Harry Belafonte (94), Quincy Jones (88), Oprah Winfrey (67), David Byrne (69), Paul McCartney (79) and Peter Gabriel (71) weigh in on the groundbreaking work and the cultural and political issues surrounding its creation.

Watch it: Under African Skies on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube

Paul Simon: The Concert in Hyde Park (2017)

Released in 2017, this Graceland-heavy concert was filmed in London in 2012, when Simon closed out that year’s Hard Rock Calling festival. His nearly three-hour set included appearances from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Jamaican reggae legend Jimmy Cliff (77), and the father of South African jazz, Hugh Masekela, who joined him for covers of their songs. Robin Denselow of The Guardian wrote at the time, “This was surely one of the landmark concerts of his career”— an impressive feat at the age of 70!

Watch it: Paul Simon: The Concert in Hyde Park on Amazon Prime, Apple TV

Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.

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