I was in the car with my son today and he asked me if I had ever heard the song “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” by Paul Simon. I replied that I had not, but thanks to the magic of Spotify and Bluetooth, it was playing on the car speaker in less than 10 seconds.
It was one of those songs that you like instantly, and I remarked that it sounded like it must have been part of Simon’s Graceland album, which it was.
So when I got home, I decided to try and find out more about the song. Once again, thanks to the magic of the Internet and Wikipedia, I was able to find out some interesting facts:
- the song was the fourth single from his seventh studio album, Graceland (1986)
- The song features guest vocals from the South African male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo
- Simon performed the song live on Saturday Night Live on May 10, 1986. During the performance, Simon sung live to the backing instrumental track featured on the album while Ladysmith Black Mombazo mimed their parts.
And here is some additional info about that Saturday Night Live appearance, from Songfacts:
This song marked the first time Ladysmith Black Mambazo sang with musicians – all their previous recordings were a cappella. By then, they were comfortable with Simon and having a great time, which showed when they sang this with Simon on Saturday Night Live, which turned out to be one of the most memorable performances in the history of the show. Introduced by Robin Williams, the group backed Simon with a joyfully choreographed stage moves and their unique vocal sound, and it brought the house down.
Also in town for the that show were some of the musicians he recorded with in South Africa, including guitarist Ray Phiri, bass player Bakithi Kumalo and drummer Isaac Mtshali. This was quite an experience for these musicians, who lived under the racist Apartheid rule in their home country. Getting picked up in limos driven by white men was a culture shock. When they asked about visiting Central Park, Simon had to explain that they didn’t need a permit – they could just walk in.
And here’s proof of the appearance; enjoy: