When Graceland was released 25 years ago, following the commercial flop that was Hearts & Bones, it was the subject of both praise and political outrage. The themes of the album were the product of Simon’s own violation of the cultural boycott, supported by both the United Nations (UN) and the African National Congress (ANC), against the white Apartheid government in South Africa that brutally oppressed the country’s black population.
Despite the political turmoil in South Africa during the time Graceland was recorded, the album itself strikingly avoids politics. Simon allows his lyrics to describe the world around him without making any overt statements or conclusions about it. Lyrically, Graceland in is remarkably American, even though it is inspired sonically by a variety of African musical techniques.
In creating Graceland, Simon hoped that the art itself would transcend the politics of the time, making the work universally relatable and ultimately about a human experience. Whatever your political stance on Graceland, a quarter century later, the cultural impact of the album and the resonance of its lyrics speaks for itself.
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