“The Boy in the Bubble,” live from Zimbabwe, by Paul Simon

Paul Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble” is probably my favorite of the many timeless tracks from his Graceland album; its timelessness is even more jaw-dropping considering that it’s essentially a song about the culture-changing effects of modern technology, one of whose central lines—”the way the camera follows us in slow-mo” refers not even to cutting-edge 1980s tech but rather the 1963 Zapruder Film of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Indeed, it seems like the main dated aspect of this performance (excepting, perhaps, “the boy in the bubble and the baby with the babboon heart,” which are very 80s but almost seem more futuristic today) is the reversal of the political and human rights situations in South Africa and Zimbabwe during the intervening decades—those billboards of Robert Mugabe now signify something entirely different.

from “Graceland: The African Concert,” by Paul Simon with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Miriam Makeba, et al., recorded live in Zimbabwe, 1987

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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