Harper Simon Wrote ‘The Shine’ With Carrie Fisher
Everyone is mourning the loss of Carrie Fisher, mostly because of her iconic role in Star Wars, but she obviously was much more than Princess Leia, she was a very talented writer, an author of eight books and a movie script doctor,… but how many people know she also was a songwriter? She was married to Paul Simon for barely a year, although they dated on and off for more than a decade, and despite a tumultuous relationship with Paul, she kept a close relationship with her stepson, Harper Simon. If she inspired many songs, she also wrote a song with Harper. ‘The Shine’, which appeared on his 2009 self-titled album.
In an interview of Harper by Mike Ragogna, published here in 2010, just after the release of his album, he explained the conception of the song. This is an excerpt:
Mike Ragogna: And you have “The Shine.” What is that concept?
Harper Simon: That was the first song that I wrote for the album before I went to Nashville. The first two I wrote were “Wishes And Stars” and “The Shine” which I wrote with Carrie Fisher.
MR: You have that kind of relationship with Carrie Fisher where you write songs together?
HS: I was living at her house at that time. When I first moved here, I was staying in her guest house. She’s a good writer, and she hadn’t written a song before.
MR: This was the first?
HS: Yeah. She wrote all of these stanzas. She’s a prose writer, stream of consciousness.
MR: It’s beautiful. It’s like a spiritual song.
HS: Months later, my dad rewrote the verses, but they had the same rhythm and everything. He really kicked up the song several notches in the rewrite.
MR: That’s pretty historic and a fascinating story. It’s not only about you coming to California and having a friendship with Carrie Fisher, but she’s also your dad’s ex-wife. Weren’t they together for just a few months or something?
HS: No, no, no. They were together for about twelve years.
MR: I knew they married, but I didn’t know how long they were together before or after their marriage.
HS: They were on and off. Their marriage lasted a long time. They were together from when I was five years old, and then they divorced when I was eleven. They got back together when I was fourteen, and broke up again when I was seventeen.
MR: Wow, that’s intense. So, she was always in the picture.
HS: Pretty much for my whole childhood, except for a short period when they divorced. She’s like my stepmother.
MR: Paul and Carrie writing together, wow.
HS: I know, and then there’s all that emotional stuff, romantic stuff. It felt like..
MR: …you were stuck in the middle?
HS: I’m not even going to go into it now.
Basically ‘The Shine’ is a song written by Carrie Fisher, re-written by Paul Simon, which appears on Harper’s debut album! And it is a beautiful song, with a very indie vibe. Harper’s soft and timid vocals fit very well between the country accent of the slide guitars and the waltz-y keys, while the chorus has a warm hook wrapping a real melancholia. And there is this verse, which takes a complete different meaning when you know the story of the song: ‘Where do you think we went wrong/Can we go back and watch it again/Can we rewind our lives ’til the danger arrives/And erase it with a magnetic pen’. It may sound like a long distance dialogue between the two main authors. You can listen to ‘The Shine’ below or on Harper’s album.