March 1, 2007 Paul Simon To Be Awarded First Annual Gershwin Prize for Popular Song by Library of Congress
Concert Gala at Warner Theatre on May 23 and Broadcast Nationally on PBS June 27
"Graceland" To Be Included in Library's National Recording Registry
Press Contact: Erin Allen (202) 707-7302 | Cecily Van Praagh (703) 998-2756
Contact: See concert information and lineup.
Paul Simon, one of America’s most respected songwriters and musicians, will be the recipient of the first annual Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Named in honor of the legendary George and Ira Gershwin, this newly created award recognizes the profound and positive effect of popular music on the world’s culture. The prize will be given annually to a composer or performer whose lifetime contributions exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins.
“The Gershwin Prize is a milestone in the Library’s mission to recognize and celebrate creativity in order to spark imagination in this and future generations. 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,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington in making the announcement.
Upon being notified of receiving this honor, Simon said, “I am grateful to be the recipient of the Gershwin Prize and doubly honored to be the first. I look forward to spending an evening in the company of artists I admire at the award ceremony in May. I can think of a few who have expressed my words and music far better than I. I’m excited at the prospect of that happening again. It’s a songwriter’s dream come true.”
During his distinguished career Paul Simon has received many awards and prizes, including 12 Grammy Awards, three for album of the year: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in 1970 (with musical partner Art Garfunkel), “Still Crazy After All These Years” in 1976 and “Graceland ” in 1986, which was recently selected as part of the Library’s National Recording Registry. The Librarian will officially announce all 25 selections to the registry on March 6.
Simon is a two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as half of the Simon and Garfunkel duo and again in 2001 as a soloist. He is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and a 2002 Kennedy Center Honoree. In 2006 Time Magazine named Paul Simon one of the “100 People Who Shaped the World.” Simon was the first American artist invited by President Nelson Mandela to perform in post-apartheid South Africa.
The Library will celebrate Simon’s musical achievements with an all-star gala concert on Wednesday, May 23 at 8 p.m. at the Warner Theatre, located at 1299 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C. A full lineup will be announced soon.
The creators and executive producers of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song are Peter and Bob Kaminsky, Mark Krantz and Cappy McGarr, who are also the creators and executive producers of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, now in its 10th year. WETA executive producers of the broadcast are Dalton Delan and David S. Thompson. The event will be broadcast in high definition on Wednesday, June 27 at 9 p.m. EDT on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings).
A companion Web site featuring archival footage, images and audiovisual recordings of Simon and the Gershwins, along with resources from the Library’s Music Division, will be launched soon at www.loc.gov.
In the same manner that the Librarian of Congress consults with the wider cultural community to select the Poet Laureate and the John W. Kluge Prize for the Study of Humanity, he turned to leading members of the music community and to the expertise of the Library’s Music Division to develop an award that recognizes musical achievement in popular culture all over the world. Given the Library’s long association with the Gershwin family and the profound effect the brothers had in the evolution of American music, it is fitting that the Library memorialize this relationship in the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
The Library is home to the George and Ira Gershwin Collection, the world’s preeminent resource for the documentary legacy of the Gershwin brothers. It contains a wealth of materials that provide insight into their careers and personalities, including manuscripts and printed music, photographs, correspondence, business papers, scrapbooks and iconography. A permanent tribute to the Gershwins and their work, the Gershwin Room (temporarily closed due to construction in the Jefferson Building) features George’s piano and desk, Ira’s typing table and typewriter, self-portraits of both brothers, and a selection of musical manuscripts from Gershwin stage and screen shows such as “Lady Be Good,” “Funny Face,” “Girl Crazy” and “Of Thee I Sing.”
The Library’s unparalleled music holdings include manuscripts, scores, sound recordings, books, libretti, music-related periodicals and microforms, copyright deposits and musical instruments. Manuscripts of note include those of European masters such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms and those of American masters such as Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein and Charles Mingus. The Alan Lomax collection of field recordings of American roots music, Woody Guthrie’s original recordings and manuscripts, and one-of-a-kind recordings of bluesman Robert Johnson from the 1930s are also among the Library’s musical treasures.
WETA Washington, D.C., is the third-largest producing station for public television. Other productions and co-productions include “The Newshour With Jim Lehrer,” “Washington Week With Gwen Ifill and National Journal,” “The Kennedy Center Presents: The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor,” “In Performance at The White House” and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including “The Civil War,” and coming in September 2007, “The War.” Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO.
Tickets will be available in-person beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday, April 27, at the Warner Theatre Box Office, all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, TicketMaster Phone Charge: 703-573-SEAT, 202-397-SEAT, 800-551-SEAT and via the Internet at www.ticketmaster.com.