Bridge Over Troubled Water is the studio swan song album of the harmonizing folk duo that ruled the 1960s. There aren’t too many two singer voice combinations that were better than Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. And Simon’s lyrics are among the best of any songwriter in all of pop music.
The album was released in January, 1970 and I seem to recall that my parents owned it. That’s a little surprising, because my parents were never big music people. Dad liked his country and western, but I don’t remember them doing a lot of listening to music at home. They watched the Lawrence Welk Show for crying out loud! These weren’t the most musically hip people, but they had this album. Go figure.
I don’t often listen to this album, but when I do it’s amazing how good it is. It’s not the folk sound of their earlier efforts, it explores several musical genres such as jazz, reggae, and world music. Comedian and podcaster Adam Carolla would often complain about how doleful and morose Simon & Garfunkel’s music was and he has a point, but he forgets this album. Sure, it gets a little quiet and sad, but some of it is downright fun!
It is easily my favorite S & G album.
Bridge Over Troubled Water – Right out of the gate. A magnificent song. It’s been compared to The Beatles’ Let It Be and that is an understandable reaction. More gospel than folk, Garfunkel’s vocals soar on this one. And he didn’t want to sing lead on it at first, he needed convincing. I’m glad he was convinced. Also, according to Wikipedia, the “silver girl” in the song is referring to Simon’s wife at the time and her first grey hairs, not heroin as the urban legend claims. That will be a relief to my mother, who had gone off the song when she heard that myth.
El Condor Pasa (If I Could) – This gentle and wistful song is an early indication of Simon’s interest in music from around the world. It’s a little like a World Music version of the folk classic If I Had Hammer.
Cecilia – Oh, this one is fun. Awesome percussion throughout. A great, toe-tapping, uptempo song about a fellow’s not-so-loyal girlfriend taking on another lover while he’s in the bathroom.
Keep The Customer Satisfied – Another uptempo song and another song rumored to have to do with illegal drugs. This time it’s thought to be about a drug dealer, but Simon was writing about how exhausting it is to tour. I love the horns! They add a terrific punch.
So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright – A jazzy song praising the world famous architect, sung so sweetly by Garfunkel.
The Boxer – This and the title track were S & G’s most commercially successful songs and this one is a boomer. A gritty song about a fighter trying to survive a life filled with punches. The big drum sound was accomplished by recording the drums in a hallway. The “lie, lie, lies” chorus helps make this a great sing-a-long tune.
Baby Driver – Back to the uptempo, but this time Simon doesn’t counter-point the music with downer lyrics as he does on Customer and Why Don’t You Write Me, this time he just wants to have some fun. I really like this song. It just might be my favorite track. Excellent guitar work!
The Only Living Boy In New York – On an album of so much musical exploration, this and the final track are the most traditional S & G feeling songs. It’s a melancholy track about being lonely in New York City. The big drum sound fits this song, unlike the drum sound that was overdubbed, unknown to Simon and Garfunkel, onto the remixed version of their song The Sound Of Silence.
Why Don’t You Write Me – Simon loves himself an uptempo, bouncing song with a downbeat lyric and this one is a good one. There’s a bit of a reggae feel to this one.
Bye Bye Love – Recorded live on my fifth birthday (just a coincidence) during a concert performance in Ames, Iowa, this cover song is more popularly known to have been hit for pop music’s other famous harmonizing duo, The Everly Brothers. According to Wikipedia, S & G performed the song twice, because when they first played it that night in 1969 they really liked the sound of the audience clapping along. So, they played it again and recorded it for inclusion on this album.
Song For The Asking – Quietly lush with strings, acoustic guitar, and Paul’s vocals, this all too brief song sounds very much like a sweet goodbye. And that’s what it turned out to be for this would be Simon & Garfunkel’s final studio album.
Feel free to comment and share.
Images used under Fair Use.