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Defending Paul Simon Against Charges of Cultural 'Rip-Off'

November 11, 1990

About Scot Tempesta's Oct. 28 letter, which charges that Paul Simon has "ripped off" other cultures in his songs: By Mr. Tempesta's logic, we should close all the museums; they rip off ancient and foreign cultures.

Charley Pride, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Yo-Yo Ma and Johnny Clegg all have drawn from music and cultural styles outside their own origins. Rip-off? No way. These men are making great contributions to those styles and have greatly enriched the world of music.

Mr. Tempesta, your thinly veiled attempt to somehow connect Simon's "Graceland" project with black exploitation or apartheid is wrong-minded. Would Miriam Makeba or Hugh Masekela work with anyone who didn't serve the war against racial exploitation, injustice and prejudice?

"Graceland" has help paved the way for much fine African music and art. Clegg, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Sambuca, plus many recent plays and movies, all can claim the benefits of ground broken by "Graceland."

MARK TOBIAS, Long Beach

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