Someone wrote to me this week: “Waiting on your blog post that commemorates [the] 50th anniversary of the “Bridge Over Troubled Water” single.
It is a great song, released on January 20, 1970, the title track of an album released six days later. The single hit the charts on February 7 and spent six weeks at #1 pop and the same on the adult contemporary charts.
Moreover, it was the Grammy Record and Song of the Year, Top 50 on Rolling Stones Top 500 songs, and a bunch of other accolades. It’s my second favorite Simon and Garfunkel song, after The Boxer.
If memory serves, my sister Leslie received the single from her boyfriend that winter. I bought, or was given, the album shortly afterwards. I swear that the single and the album track were in different keys. Maybe that was just the production values of the single.
Who will sing the song?
I suppose Bridge Over Troubled Water makes me sad because it was the swan song of the duet, the last song recorded for their final album. Paul Simon felt his partner, Art Garfunkel, should sing the song solo, the “white choirboy way.” Art initially declined, liking “Simon’s falsetto on the demo.”
“At the suggestion of Garfunkel and producer Roy Halee, Simon wrote an extra verse and a ‘bigger’ ending, though he felt it was less cohesive with the earlier verses.” While Paul is technically correct – the last verse is not as strong, even with Simon’s harmonies – it doesn’t matter.
Even before their breakup, Paul had his regrets over giving the song to Artie. “Many times on a stage, though, when I’d be sitting off to the side and Larry Knechtel would be playing the piano and Artie would be singing ‘Bridge’, people would stomp and cheer when it was over, and I would think, ‘That’s my song, man…”
This is one of the most covered songs, ever. These are the ones that charted in the US, to my knowledge, plus one more.
Simon and Garfunkel
Aretha Franklin, #6 pop, #1 for two weeks RB in 1971
Buck Owens, #119 pop, #9 CW in 1971
Linda Clifford, #41 pop, #49 RB in 1979; remix
Paul Simon, live in Central Park, 1991
Glee cast, #73 pop in 2010
Andrea Bocelli & Mary J. Blige, #75 pop in 2010
Tessanne Chin, #64 in 2013