Paul Simon to receive PEN America's Literary Service Award

Paul Simon’s latest honor places him among public figures well outside the music industry

Hillel Italie
Thursday 07 March 2024 13:05 GMT
Paul Simon-PEN America
Paul Simon-PEN America (Invision)

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Paul Simon's latest honor places him among public figures well outside the music industry. He is this year's winner of PEN America's PEN/Audible Literary Service Award, which previously has been given to former President Barack Obama, the late Nobel laureate Toni Morrison and Stephen King among others.

The 82-year-old Simon is known for such classic songs as “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “The Sound of Silence” and for his globe-spanning musical tastes, from Brazil to South Africa to his native New York City. Later this month, he will be featured in the MGM+ docuseries “In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon.”

“Paul Simon has inspired fans worldwide with lyrics and songs that entire generations know by heart and can recognize from the very first notes," PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement Thursday. "His fascination with different cultures, traditions and rhythms have helped open our ears and minds to essential musical traditions. We are elated to pay tribute to this unparalleled creative artist whose music, along with his commitment to humane values and humanitarian causes, has made him a cultural icon.”

Simon will receive his award at PEN's annual gala, to be held May 16 at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Last year, PEN presented the literary prize to a longtime friend of Simon's, “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels.

On Thursday, PEN also announced it was presenting its Business Visionary award to Almar Latour, CEO of Dow Jones and publisher of The Wall Street Journal. PEN, a prominent advocate for free expression, cited his efforts to bring about the release of Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been held in Russia for nearly a year on allegations of espionage.

“At a time when facts and truth are in question, the Wall Street Journal’s role as a source of credible, reported news is indispensable," PEN President Jennifer Finney Boylan said in a statement. "Almar’s commitment to delivering trusted news and information and building sustainable news operations is a lifelong calling. His fierce support for press freedom and for Evan has been inspiring.”

Gershkovich's parents are scheduled to be in attendance Thursday when President Joe Biden delivers his annual State of the Union address. Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich were invited by House Speaker Mike Johnson.

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