Thursday, June 24, 2010

Simon and Garfunkel's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' a beautiful pop album

The Simon and Garfunkel song 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' is one of the most beautiful and best-known pop songs of all time. Propelled by Paul Simon's concise songwriting and Art Garfunkel's angelic voice, the song was a massive hit that topped the singles chart for six weeks.

The enormity of the song's success somewhat overshadowed the brilliance of the album on which it appeared. The album of the same title was also a huge success, hitting the top spot on the Billboard album chart. The album does not contain a dud on it. The duo was on the cusp of breaking up, and this album is probably the best example of an act quitting while at the top.

The success of the song 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' may be the product of good timing as well as being a great song. It is important to remember the context in which it was released. In the late 1960s, the Vietnam War had caused unrest. Violence and assassinations had played a prominent role on the American landscape. The country was tired and divided. By 1970, when this song was released, it was the perfect time for a song about friendship and reconciliation to appear on the radio.

The album, as a whole, is beautiful. 'El Conder Pasa (If I Could)' was an adaptation of a Peruvian folk song played with instruments associated with the musical culture of the Andes Mountains. Lyrics and music combined to deliver atmospheric beauty rarely heard on a pop song.

'Cecilia' was also a big hit that dealt with the ups and downs of a romantic relationship in a humorous way. 'The Boxer' showcased Simon's lyrics and singing about an anonymous athlete trying to hang on. 'Keep the Customer Satisfied' is a fairly standard song about the demands of serving the public, but chewy horns take the song to another level.

'So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright' is a song that confused me for a while. A song about an architect did not seem to fit the tone of the album, so its inclusion was perplexing. Later I learned that Garfunkel was once an architecture student, and the song is actually Simon dealing with their impending break up in a veiled way. The song is clever and interesting.

The album is filled with choice pop songs. Because of its success, it is almost a greatest hits album without being a greatest hits album.

It represents the best of its genre.

1 comment:

Mister Jimmy said...

I remember when that album came out. I was living in Knoxville and it was one of those fine east Tennessee days. I was walking across campus and heard someone playing it on a stereo, windows open in the dorm and so on. I went and bought a copy straight way. An iconic piece of work.

"The Only Living Boy In New York" and "Song For The Asking" are two other fine tracks on the album. They didn't get much airplay but are classic Paul Simon.