“You Can Call Me Al” is a song by American singer-songwriter Paul Simon. It was from his 1986 album, Graceland. The lyrics follow an individual seemingly experiencing a midlife crisis, and were partially inspired by Simon’s trip to South Africa and his experience with its culture and in particular, the South African township music that he heard. This song became one of his biggest solo hits and Graceland became his most successful studio album selling up to 16 million copies worldwide.
It is said that the names in the song came from a funny memory of going to a party at the New York apartment of Pierre Boulez, the French conductor-composer. Simon and his first wife Peggy arrived, meeting their host at the door, who evidently had no clue who they were. Boulez introduced them to his guests as “Al and Betty.”
Here is the official video for the song. Listen out for the musician, Bakithi Kumalo’s bass guitar solo at 3 minutes 44 seconds as it is a musical palindrome. Only the first half was recorded – the second half is the first half played in reverse.
To listen to a brilliant podcast which talks through exactly how this song is put together, go to Strong Songs.