One-Trick Pony (film)

One-Trick Pony is a 1980 feature film written by and starring Paul Simon and directed by Robert M. Young. It also stars Blair Brown, Rip Torn, Joan Hackett, Mare Winningham, Michael Pearlman, Lou Reed, and Allen Garfield (credited under his birth name, Allen Goorwitz).

One-Trick Pony
Directed byRobert M. Young
Produced byMichael Tannen
Written byPaul Simon
StarringPaul Simon
Blair Brown
Rip Torn
Joan Hackett
Music byPaul Simon
CinematographyDick Bush
Edited byEdward Beyer
Barry Malkin
David Ray
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • October 3, 1980 (1980-10-03)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$843,215[1]

The song "Late in the Evening," from the film's soundtrack, hit #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, while the title song peaked at #40. After years of being available only on videocassette and laserdisc, One-Trick Pony was released by Warner Bros. on DVD in 2009.


Paul Simon plays Jonah Levin, a once-popular folk-rock musician who hasn't had a hit in ten years, and now opens for bands like the B-52's (Levin's bandmates are played by musicians Steve Gadd, Eric Gale, Tony Levin, and Richard Tee, all of whom similarly backed Simon on One-Trick Pony's soundtrack album). He's trying to record a new album, but faces a number of obstacles, including an indifferent record-company executive (Rip Torn) who's pressuring him to create a hit record with the help of a trendy producer (Lou Reed). Jonah is also trying to restore his relationship with his estranged wife, Marion (Blair Brown), and young son, Matty (Michael Pearlman).


The title derives from a colloquial American expression meaning a person specializing in only one area, having only one talent, or of limited ability.[2][3]

The film is not considered autobiographical, though the story makes use some of Simon's experiences in the music business.[4] There has been some disagreement on the story's underpinning. Biographer Laura Jackson felt that the film may have been based on experiences in Simon's professional and personal life,[5] though Dave Marsh in a Rolling Stone review saw similarities with Simon's personality, but not with his life and career.[6] However, the character of Walter Fox, the record company executive portrayed by Rip Torn, is regarded as reflecting some of Simon's experiences in moving away from CBS Records, his former label, in the 1970s.[6] (Simon went to Warner Bros. Records at the time of the film's release. The label, owned by the film's distributor, acquired the masters of Simon's CBS catalog that same year.) The film featured one of the last appearances of the original members of The Lovin' Spoonful, in a simulated TV show appearance.

The Paul Simon album One-Trick Pony was released concurrently with the movie. All of the songs on the album are featured in the film, though some are presented with a slightly different mix, e.g., "Jonah" features a harmonica solo (probably by Toots Thielemans) that's missing from the album version. The film also features "Soft Parachutes," Jonah Levin's sole hit as a recording artist, which is included as a bonus track on the album's 2004 reissue.





  2. "Oxford English Dictionary, Third edition, June 2004; online version March 2011". Missing or empty |url= (help)
  3. Oregon Pioneer Assoc. 32nd Ann. Reunion. 1905. p. 264.
  4. Dave Swanson (3 October 2015). "The Story of Paul Simon's 'One-Trick Pony' Movie and Album".
  5. Laura Jackson (2002). Paul Simon: The Definitive Bio. Citadel Press. p. 163.
  6. Dave Marsh (30 October 1980). "What Do You Do When You'e Not a Kid Anymore And You Still Want to Rock and Roll".

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