February 1976: Paul Simon Hits #1 with "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover"

American singer-songwriter Paul Simon performing at the Palladium Theatre in London, December 1975. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
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(Michael Putland/Getty Images)

The year was 1975. Paul Simon had recently gotten divorced from his first wife, Peggy Harper, and was in an irreverent sort of mood.

RELATED: August 1986: Paul Simon Releases "Graceland"

"I woke up one morning in my apartment on Central Park and the opening words just popped into my mind: 'The problem is all inside your head, she said to me...' That was the first thing I thought of. So I just started building on that line," Simon explained to Rock Lives: Profiles and Interviews back in 1975 (via Songfacts). "It was the last song I wrote for the album, and I wrote it with a Rhythm Ace, one of those electronic drum machines so maybe that's how it got that sing-song 'make a new plan Stan, don't need to be coy Roy' quality. It's basically a nonsense song."

Released in December 1975 as the second single from Simon's fourth studio album, Still Crazy After All These Years, the song was an instant hit on radio and the charts. Flying up the charts, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" peaked at #1 on the Hot 100 for the week of February 7, 1976. It was the most popular song in America for three weeks in a row. "50 Ways" was finally topple at the end of February 1976 by TV show opening number "Theme from S.W.A.T." by Rhythm Heritage.

FUN FACT: "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" is Paul Simon's one and only #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 as a solo act. It's also his highest-charting song in France, where it peaked at #2.

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