Lefty had a question recently: Do you have a “special song” that is tied to an event in your life? I feel there are LOTS of songs that bring me specifically to a time and place, from Etta James’ At Last, which was played at Carol’s and my wedding after our five-year off-and-on courtship to Albinoni’s Adagio sung by my church choir three weeks before my friend Arlene died of cancer. There are probably hundreds of these.
Since Paul Simon’s birthday is today, I thought I’d note the effect of the songs of Simon & Garfunkel on me.
Album: Wednesday Morning 3 A.M.
Not so much, since I got it well after its 1964 release, maybe not until 1968.
Album: Sounds of Silence
We read the poem Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson in English class in junior high, and we were struck that, in the song, the protagonist, even after Cory’s suicide, STILL sings:
But I work in his factory
And I curse the life I’m living
And I curse my poverty
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Was the worker suicidal as well? When you’re 13 or 14, this is heavy stuff.
Album: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
It was my father who bought this, not for me or my sisters, but for himself.
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy): possibly the first S&G song I owned personally, from a Columbia compilation album, Best of ’66; covers of Homeward Bound (by Chad & Jeremy) and Cloudy (by The Cyrkle, who had a hit with Simon’s Red Rubber Ball) was on it, too. So, I got to appreciate Paul as a WRITER.
The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine: I got razzed about this title.
A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Robert McNamara’d Into Submission: I was obsessed with this song, playing it over and over. (It has a Beatles reference, and it rocks.) When I got the S&G box set, the album was heavily represented, but to my disappointment, this song was not on it.
7 O’Clock News/Silent Night: My father’s favorite song. “In Chicago Richard Speck, accused murderer of nine student nurses, was brought before a grand jury today for indictment.” I remembered that case very well, and knew that there were eight nurses who died, as one was able to hide. So the codification of wrong information on the album really bugged me; a librarian, even then.
Voices of Old People: “I’d give, without regret, $100 for that picture.” Been there.
Mrs. Robinson: Since I never saw The Graduate until fairly recently, I mused on the meaning of this song for decades.
Punky’s Dilemma: “Old Roger draft-dodger, Leavin’ by the basement door, Everybody knows what he’s Tippy-toeing down there for.” Talkin’ about being razzed.
At the Zoo: Like many of these songs, I knew/know all the lyrics. My high school friend Carol HATED this song.
Album: Bridge Over Troubled Waters
My sister’s boyfriend had bought her the Bridge single. What I remember now is that the single was in a different key from the album cut; can’t remember which was higher. Or maybe it was different tape speeds, but the versions are not quite the same.
Cecilia: Among the group of the left-of-center, anti-war folks I hung out with in high school was Cecily, who I’m still friends with.
The Boxer: Another song I knew well, and eventually experienced “a comeon from the whores on 7th avenue” as described here. (I may have been lonesome, but I took no comfort there.)
Why Don’t You Write Me: A paean to everyone back home during my freshman year of college.
The solo Paul was even more significant. I’ll have to do that sometime.