Monday, January 26, 2015

'Bridge Over Troubled Water' Was a Memorable Swan Song

As I have written here before, my mother was a huge fan of Simon and Garfunkel.

She didn't have copies of all their albums, but she had some — and she had 45 rpm singles of her favorite songs, whether she had the albums or not.

One of my most vivid memories of my childhood is of my mother putting Simon and Garfunkel on the stereo and playing it loud enough so she could hear it, no matter which room she was in. There weren't many activities that could prevent her from hearing the music — mostly it was the vacuum cleaner, I think, that obstructed her.

She didn't own the album that made its debut on this day in 1970, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," but she did have a single of the title song, and she played that single until it was scratched and just plain worn out.

It was probably the most popular song on the album. It was Simon and Garfunkel's biggest seller, and it is probably regarded as their signature song. When my parents, my brother and I saw them during their reunion tour a couple of years after their concert in Central Park, my memory is that "Bridge Over Troubled Water" received the loudest round of applause — and we saw them in the Cotton Bowl, probably the largest venue in Dallas at the time.

It is probably the song that most of their fans would like to hear, but, when I saw them in concert, I really wanted to hear them sing another song from the album, "The Boxer."

I did hear that one during the concert, and I also heard another song from the album that I really wanted to hear, "El Condor Pasa (If I Could)."

All three were released as singles and did pretty well. That was hardly surprising, really. Simon and Garfunkel singles always sold well. The tunes were always catchy, and the lyrics were always perfect.

There were other good songs on the album that didn't get as much attention. I would include "Keep the Customer Satisfied," a song for which I have more appreciation now than I did when I was younger.

I can't prove it, not even to myself, but I suspect that my admiration for good writing stems in part from my earlier experiences with Simon and Garfunkel's lyrics.

They influenced others, too. I have heard that Paul McCartney was motivated to write "Let It Be" out of a desire to match Simon and Garfunkel.

You could certainly do worse than have people say that you inspired one of the Beatles' biggest hits.

Unfortunately, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (the album) was the last studio album ever released by Simon and Garfunkel. They split up shortly thereafter and never made another studio album together.

They did record together before the concert in Central Park. In 1972, they recorded the single "America," and, in the mid–'70s, they made a recording of a Paul Simon composition, "My Little Town," which appeared on solo albums for each performer.