When Paul Simon released Hearts and Bones in 1983, I ignored it. It didn't seem significant to me, and I didn't buy it. Neither did most of my friends.
My loss. In 1988, in between the comeback of Graceland and the complex mastery (and, for my money, his best album ever) The Rhythm of the Saints, Simon released a best-of album called Negotiations and Love Songs. On it I found what has pretty much been one of my favourite songs ever, Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War. It had been there on Hearts and Bones, and I had missed it; maybe, though, I needed to be five years older and a whole lot more mature to get it, or even just like it.
The song has a soft, gentle lilt, and some pretty unusual lyrics, about the famous Belgian surrealist painter, his wife, New York City ... and doo wop.
I didn't for many years that Simon had gotten the idea for the song from having seen a photograph of Rene Magritte and his wife, Georgette Magritte, holding their dog. The photograph was taken by Lothar Wolleh.
The photograph was taken after the war, but well after the war ... in 1967. And not in New York, as the song implied, but in Brussels. You can see it, as well as Wolleh's other portraits of Magritte, in this set posted to Flickr. It's inspiring.
It finally clicked with me that the setting of the photograph was irrelevant, and that the song itself was subtly surreal ... quite a lot like Magritte itself.
After all, isn't it peculiar that the "deep forbidden music" that the Magrittes had been longing for, to which they danced by moonlight in a hotel room, was the music of doo-wop groups, or the street music of New York that Simon grew up to. As the song puts it, the Penguins, the Moonglows, the Orioles and the Five Satins.
In any event, the song is a favourite, and one that can instantly fill a room with warmth.