Former LA Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn has found a big project to follow up his 2013 biography of Johnny Cash. Hilburn will work with Paul Simon on a bio of the musician for Simon and Schuster, which acquired the book project in a six-publisher auction. Simon has declined to take part in a biography before but agreed to this one.
"I thought seriously about writing my own memoir, but I'd rather devote my time to making music, which continues to hold my full attention," Simon said in a statement. "I'm confident Robert Hilburn will write an insightful book. I enjoyed and admired his biography of Johnny Cash and I think he'll tell my story well."
Hilburn lives in Sherman Oaks but will spend a lot of time traveling for the book. "Beyond those great songs, the thing that appeals to me most about Paul as a subject is that he is so smart and articulate," Hilburn told me Tuesday. "Besides immense talent, Paul has great toughness and resilience. He's a remarkable competitor. That's what has kept him active --long after most of his peers either lost the songwriting touch or got lazy."
From Rolling Stone:
Along with his book about Cash, "The Life," Hilburn served as music critic and editor at the Los Angeles Times for over 30 years, and in 2009 he published his memoir, "Corn Flakes with John Lennon (And Other Tales from a Rock ‘n’ Roll Life)." Simon and Hilburn have known each other since the Seventies as well, and the author famously profiled the musician during a 1987 stop in Zimbabwe on Simon's tour behind his seminal LP, Graceland.
In a statement, Hilburn promised his biography of Simon would "be a gripping, inspiring portrait of an artist, including the toughness and heart it requires to avoid giving in to the many factors — from rejection to self-doubt to writer's block and complacency — that have derailed so many pop artists."
Simon has been a pivotal figure in American music since the mid-1960s when he first garnered attention and acclaim for his work with Art Garfunkel. After the duo split in 1970, Simon embarked on a lengthy solo career that found him expanding his folk roots to encompass elements of pop, rock and various musical styles from around the world.
Hilburn hosts Rock and Roll Times on Sunday evenings from 6 to 7 p.m. on KCSN, FM 88.5 in the LA area.
Previously on LA Observed:
Hilburn sells bio of Johnny Cash as seminal rock artist
Bono to Hilburn: Love the book
Hilburn to hang up his earplugs
Photo of Hilburn and Keith Richards: George Rose