“You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon (1986)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 26 September 2021
Photo by author, Singapore 2018.

Today’s featured music is one of our favorites by the great Paul Simon whose meaning we only realized now. We were discussing in our communication class last week the meaning of his classic Sound of Silence when I invited my senior high students to check this one too.

Released in 1986 from his seventh studio album Graceland that featured South African musicians, You Can Call Me Al according to Simon is inspired by a funny anecdote at a party he and his first wife Peggy Harper hosted in New York in 1970. Simon’s friend and fellow composer Stanley Silverman brought along the French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez who mistakenly referred to him as “Al” and his wife as “Betty”.

You Can Call Me Al became Simon’s first hit since 1980 which according to him is partly about himself and largely a man in a midlife crisis who went to South Africa at the midst of an economic embargo against that nation due to apartheid, so absorbed with so many mundane things that eventually ended up awakening to something extraordinary spiritual experience.

Filled with Simon’s poetic play with words that at first seem to be unrelated but by the time you are absorbed with his music, you realize how in this life God has blessed us with so many good things that we have marred with our selfish interests like labels and groupings, even names as Simon had experienced being referred to as “Al”!

A man walks down the street
He says, “Why am I short of attention?
Got a short little span of attention
And, whoa, my nights are so long
Where’s my wife and family?
What if I die here?
Who’ll be my role model
Now that my role model is gone, gone?”
He ducked back down the alley

With some roly-poly little bat-faced girl
All along, along
There were incidents and accidents
There were hints and allegations

If you’ll be my bodyguard
I can be your long lost pal
I can call you Betty
And Betty, when you call me, you can call me Al
Call me Al

A man walks down the street
It’s a street in a strange world
Maybe it’s the third world
Maybe it’s his first time around
Doesn’t speak the language
He holds no currency
He is a foreign man
He is surrounded by the sound, the sound
Cattle in the marketplace
Scatterings and orphanages
He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity
He says, “Amen and Hallelujah!”

In our readings today, we find how people would always resort to labels and tags, names and groups in determining what is good and best for everyone when God has total freedom in dispensing his blessings to everyone. All good gifts come from God which he gives us meant to be shared with everyone for the building up of the community. How sad that in our simplistic views, we feel that we are doing a great service in jealously guarding the generous prerogatives of God and others.

In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus reminds us that “sky’s the limit” when it comes to doing good in the name of God. The only limitation and obstacle we have to guard against in this life is sin (https://lordmychef.com/2021/09/25/and-god-said-sanaol/).

Have a lovely Sunday and a blessed week ahead with Paul Simon’s feel good video to his 1986 hit You Can Call Me Al with his friend, actor Chevy Chase.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.com.

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