By Mike Snider
WASHINGTON ´” If it was not official before, Paul Simon is now a national treasure.
Simon, 65, the recipient of the first Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, was treated to a concert in his honor here Wednesday night.
Simon earned the award, event host Bob Costas said, ´for the depth and enduring quality and sheer scope of his work.´
An eclectic group of musicians took turns performing Simon songs: Alison Krauss and Shawn Colvin opened the festivities with a folksy rendition of The Boxer, followed by Lyle Lovett´s verbatim take on 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. Stephen Marley, son of the late Bob Marley, delivered a reggaefied Mother and Child Reunion, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the South African group that appeared on 1987´s Graceland, sang Homeless.
Jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves performed a Gershwin-Simon medley (Our Love Is Here to Stay/Something So Right). The reason it worked, says Bob Kaminsky, one of the award show´s executive producers ´is a real testament to (Simon´s) writing.´
But Simon was not allowed to rest on his laurels at the tribute. He took the stage with Stevie Wonder for a duet of Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard. And Ladysmith Black Mambozo returned to join him on Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.
After Simon introduced ´my dear friend´ Art Garfunkel, the two sang Bridge Over Troubled Water and Cecilia. Then Simon thanked the crowd, saying ´it really was a wonderful night for me.´
For the finale, Wonder and Simon did Loves Me Like a Rock.
Librarian of Congress James Billington actually presented the award to Simon at a Tuesday dinner. At the same time, the 12-time Grammy winner announced plans to make his notes from his writing of the lyrics for Graceland on loan to the Library of Congress. Simon´s songs already are among the library´s holdings, Billington says.
The Warner Theatre concert will air June 27 on PBS.