Paul Simon – Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes

This is my contribution to Song Lyric Sunday for Jim Adams’s blog. This week’s prompt…Diamond/Emerald/Jade/Pearl/Ruby/Sapphire.

From his 1986 album, Graceland. The song peaked at #2 on Canada’s Adult Contemporary chart and #77 on UK’s singles chart. It did not chart in the U.S.

From Songfacts

Paul Simon traveled to South Africa in 1985 and recorded with various local musicians, gathering tracks that would be used on the Graceland album. While he was there, he met with the leader of a vocal group called Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and he flew them to London to record the song “Homeless.” Simon and the group bonded at these sessions, and when Paul was finishing the album in New York, he brought them in to back him on his Saturday Night Live appearance on May 10, 1986. Also in town for the show were some of the musicians he recorded with in South Africa, including guitarist Ray Phiri, bass player Bakithi Kumalo and drummer Isaac Mtshali. This was quite an experience for these musicians, who lived under the racist Apartheid rule in their home country. Getting picked up in limos driven by white men was a culture shock. When they asked about visiting Central Park, Simon had to explain that they didn’t need a permit – they could just walk in.

The album was originally scheduled for release that spring, but was pushed back to August. Simon figured, “Well, we’re all here, we might as well do another track.” Simon worked up the song with Ladysmith leader Joseph Shabalala, and they recorded it at the Hit Factory in New York.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo sing in Zulu on this track. Their refrain roughly translates to: “It’s not usual but in our days we see those things happen. They are women, they can take care of themselves.”
Youssou N’dour, who is a popular singer from Senegal, also performed on this track.
If you’re looking for a social statement or deeper meaning in the lyrics, you might be disappointed. Paul Simon considered writing political songs for Graceland, but decided against it, since he wasn’t very good at it and the point of the project was to bring the sound of South Africa to the world, not the politics. He worked very hard to lace the lyrics around the tracks, which was tricky since there was so much going on in the rhythms. The result on this song was a lot of clever wordplay and an abstract story about a rich girl in New York City and her suitors. A clue that there might not be too deep a meaning here is in the line, “and I could say ‘ooo ooo ooo’ as if everybody knows what I’m talking about.”

 

Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes

o kodwa you zo-nge li-sa namhlange
(A-wa a-wa) si-bona kwenze ka kanjani
(A-wa a-wa) amanto mbazane ayeza
She’s a rich girl
She don’t try to hide it
Diamonds on the soles of her shoes
He’s a poor boy
Empty as a pocket
Empty as a pocket with nothing to lose
Sing ta na na
Ta na na na
She got diamonds on the soles of her shoes
She got diamonds on the soles of her shoes
Diamonds on the soles of her shoes
Diamonds on the soles of her shoes
Diamonds on the soles of her shoes
Diamonds on the soles of her shoes
People say she’s crazy
She got diamonds on the soles of her shoes
Well that’s one way to lose these
Walking blues
Diamonds on the soles of her shoes
She was physically forgotten
Then she slipped into my pocket
With my car keys
She said you’ve taken me for granted
Because I please you
Wearing these diamonds
And I could say ooh ooh ooh
As if everybody knows
What I’m talking about
As if everybody would know
Exactly what I was talking about
Talking about diamonds on the soles of her shoes
She makes the sign of a teaspoon
He makes the sign of a wave
The poor boy changes clothes
And puts on after-shave
To compensate for his ordinary shoes
And she said honey take me dancing
But they ended up by sleeping
In a doorway
By the bodegas and the lights on
Upper Broadway
Wearing diamonds on the soles of their shoes
And I could say ooh ooh ooh
As if everybody here would know
What I was talking about
I mean everybody here would know exactly
What I was talking about
Talking about diamonds
People say I’m crazy
I got diamonds on the soles of my shoes
Well that’s one way to lose
These walking blues
Diamonds on the soles of our shoes
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Paul Simon / Joseph Shabalala / Dp

11 thoughts on “Paul Simon – Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes

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