Inside Carrie Fisher’s Turbulent, Inspirational Relationship with Paul Simon
The two married in August 1983, and then quickly divorced the following summer – the result, according to Peter Ames Carlin’s new book Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon, of latent emotional issues, too many fights and Fisher’s rampant drug use. But that was hardly the end. In fact, they dated on and off for more than a decade, directly influencing Simon projects like 1983’s Hearts and Bones along the way.
They’d first met while Fisher – who died today at age 60 – was filming 1977’s Star Wars, and the actress reportedly set aside the affections of a series of other men in order to move into a Central Park West apartment with Simon. She was, at that point, far more famous than he was. “When I walk down the street with her,” Simon told the Washington Post in 1983, “it’s like every 7-year-old in America wants her autograph.”
The resulting marriage, despite their lengthy courtship, was star-crossed from the first – ending up, as Fisher once reportedly described it, as nothing more than a “comfortable hell.” They’d split up, then reconcile – leaving Dan Aykroyd, at one point, stuck in the middle.
The actor, who scored a No. 1 album with the Blues Brothers’ Briefcase Full of Blues in 1979, saw his engagement to Fisher end when she returned to her old flame. “We had rings, we got blood tests, the whole shot,” Fisher told the Chicago Tribune in 2008, “but then I got back together with Paul Simon.”
Watch Carrie Fisher in a Paul Simon Music Video
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Hearts and Bones actually began life as a planned reunion studio project with Art Garfunkel, following 1981’s mega-concert in Central Park, but life kept getting in the way. The title track lyrics, for instance, include these lines: “Two people were married; the act was outrageous. The bride was contagious; she burned like a bride.”
Finally, Simon came to a realization. “These new songs are too much about my life to have anybody else sing them,” he told Playboy in 1984. Hearts and Bones, which eventually flopped, made clear how the two were unsuccessfully struggling to remain together.
“They fought a lot,” according to Carlin, who describes a moment in which a screaming match was stopped cold because the suddenly delirious Fisher and Simon were “laughing too hard to snarl anymore.” That strange and combustible chemistry eventually led Fisher and Simon to one another yet again, even after their divorce.
“The bad thing about my relationship with Paul,” Fisher later said, “was that we were similar animals. Where there should be a flower and a gardener, we were two flowers. In the bright sun. Wilting.”
They travelled to Brazil together, where Simon was doing early work for an album that would become 1990’s Rhythm of the Saints. But the same troubles remained, leading the desperate couple to visit a spiritual healer in the Amazon where they drank hallucinogenic tea, Carlin said.
Watch Carrie Fisher Duet With Ringo Starr
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Unfortunately, they both seemed to agree that their relationship was over. Not long after, the couple split for a final time. “It was very painful to not be able to make it work,” Fisher told the New York Times in 2012. “We had a good time together when we did.”
Simon composed “Have You Seen Me Lately?” for use over the title credits to the 1990 movie adaptation of Fisher’s book Postcards From the Edge. Fisher later said she thought “She Moves On,” from Rhythm of the Saints – highlighted by the lyric “she says, ‘maybe these emotions are as near to love as love will ever be‘” – was about her, as well. “If you can get Paul Simon to write a song about you, do it,” Fisher wrote in the memoir Wishful Drinking, “because he is so brilliant at it.”
The child of parents who both had scored pop hits, Carrie Fisher famously partied with the Rolling Stones during the making of 1980’s Empire Strikes Back – imbibing an improbably named cocktail called the Tunisian Death Drink. She sang a duet with Ringo Starr for the 1978 NBC TV movie Ringo, and was linked with singer-songwriter James Blunt, who had a No. 1 single with 2005’s “You’re Beautiful.”
None of it had the staying power, the emotional highs and lows or the artistic spark of her time with Paul Simon. “Carrie added velocity to his life,” Carlin said, “a kind of wild energy that often set him alight – and sometimes made him scream.”
Simon, well after his split with Fisher, was more succinct: He reportedly said theirs “was a powerful love – and it still is.” She never remarried.
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