A Legendary Tribute to Paul Simon

As any collegiate live music fan will attest, ticket prices to good shows are often way too high and out of range for the average student struggling to balance their budgets between food, booze and other unexpected expenditures. Nevertheless, there are times when it is appropriate to pay at least $150 per ticket for a show: when your parents are fronting the bill as a graduation present and when the bill for a show lists the names Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, Lyle Lovett and James Taylor, among others.

On May 23, Warner Theatre (513 13th St., N.W.) will honor legendary American songwriter Paul Simon by hosting the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Simon will be the first artist to receive the special honor in what will be an annual prize celebrating “the profound and positive effect of popular music on the world’s culture,” according to the event’s news release.

As 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 – Paul Simon is considered to be one of the most influential songwriters in American popular music, writing such classics as “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” “You Can Call Me Al,” and “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.”

“Few songwriters have had a broader influence or contributed more to song genres than Paul Simon,” says Dr. James H. Billington of the Library of Congress. “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.”

In addition to his performance Wednesday night, many of Simon’s well-known friends will play musical tributes to the 12-time Grammy Award winner. Art Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, Lyle Lovett, James Taylor, Yolanda Adams, Marc Anthony, Alison Krauss and Buckwheat Zydeco are only some of the special musical guests. Presenters include poet Billy Collins, sportscaster Bob Costas and television producer Lorne Michaels.

In order to create the new Gershwin award for popular music writing, which is named after the great American composer George Gershwin, Billington turned to the Library of Congress’ music division and members of the music community to design an award that recognizes musical achievements in popular culture throughout the world.

“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,” said Billington in a press release.

Needless to say, this special event is a hot-ticket item. With the cheapest seats going for $150, patrons can pay up to $750 for up-close premium seating – not a bad graduation gift, eh? For those who can’t afford the show, the event will be televised and broadcast in high-definition on June 27 at 9 p.m. on PBS stations nationwide.

The First Annual Gershwin Prize for Popular Song – Tribute to Paul Simon Concert Gala will be held May 23 at Warner Theater (513 13th St., N.W. between E and F streets – Metro Center) at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $150-$750, and can be purchased through Ticketmaster.

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