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Watch Paul Simon Make Newport Folk Festival Debut During Nathaniel Rateliff’s Set

The appearance as a surprise addition to Rateliff's Simon tribute
Paul Simon and Nathaniel Rateliff
Photo Credit: Rett Rogers

It’s hard to believe folk rock legend Paul Simon has never played the Newport Folk Festival before, but there’s a first time for everything. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats brought out the 80-year-old beloved singer/songwriter during their set yesterday (July 23), which happened to be a tribute to Simon.

“This has been a real joy and an honor to do these songs and learn these songs as a tribute to our good friend Paul Simon and the work he’s done,” Rateliff said near the end of his set. “And I’d really love it if I could invite Paul Simon to the stage.”

Together, they played “Graceland,” and then Simon handed Rhiannon Giddens the mic for an updated rendition of “American Tune.” He then sang “The Boxer” with Jerry Douglas, Lucius, Rateliff and his “old family friend” Lukas Nelson, and closed the evening out with a chilling solo rendition of “The Sound of Silence.”

The performance was a rare one for Simon, who announced his retirement from touring in 2018. He’s played only sporadically in public since then. “What a joy working with Nathaniel and his incredible band. The atmosphere at the festival was nothing short of wonderful,” Simon said in a statement after the set.

“It’s hard to put into words the joy we felt bringing the great American songwriter Paul Simon to the Newport Folk stage. Thank you, Paul, for your songs, your voice and your presence,” Rateliff added.

Watch Paul Simon’s four-song set below.