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Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel

Written by Paul Simon in 1969 this moving song started life as a modest gospel-style hymn, to comfort those in need, and gradually grew into something more dramatic, life-affirming, and a musical gift to Simon’s offsider, Art Garfunkel, the “white choir boy” with the soaring tenor voice. The song was originally only two verses, inspired by the Swan Silvertones gospel song Mary Don’t You Weep, which has the lyric “bridge over deep water” which may have been a sub-conscious cue for Simon. He thought his opening lines were too simple “When you’re weary, feeling small/ When tears are in your eyes/ I will dry them all…” and then realised it was the very simplicity of the words that resonated with people. Simon composed Bridge Over Troubled Water on guitar and worked with keyboardist Larry Knechtel and producer Roy Halee to transform it into a piano piece. He wanted to capture  the unique Wall of Sound treatment that Phil Spector had achieved on a Righteous Brothers recording of Old Man River, so the musical accompaniment throughout the song is stripped back piano, until the end when a Spector-like flourish of orchestration brings the song home. Both Garfunkel and Columbia Records chief Clive Davis believed that the song had epic potential and needed a third verse, Paul’s fiancée Peggy Harper was in the studio at the time and upset that she had a few grey hairs, Art picked up on the comment and jokingly called her “silver girl,” Simon commenced the all-important third verse thus “ Sail on silver girl, sail on by/ Your time has come to shine/ All your dreams are on their way…”. The song was a global smash hit, won five Grammy Awards in 1970, is one of the most covered songs in history, and a timeless classic that still resonates with us in the time of COVID-19. The video is part of the duo’s Concert in Central Park (NYC) in front of 500,000 fans in September 1981.

 

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