Most awarded songs #14

Summer’s here

The countdown continues. Some of the most awarded songs #14. Grammy and/or Oscar love. Citations in Rolling Stone magazine, RIAA, ASCAP, CMA, NPR, and more.

20. The Tracks Of My Tears – The Miracles. Classic Smokey Robinson poetry. “Since you put me down My smile is my make up I wear since my break up with you” It uses the clown motif, as did the Miracles’ Tears of A Clown.

19. Always On My Mind – Willie Nelson. Interestingly, this is a song that was NOT written by Willie. The 1972 song was also successfully recorded by artists, including Elvis, before Willie’s Grammy Award-winning version in 1982.

18. Be My Baby – The Ronettes. Written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and Phil Spector, the only Ronette on the track was Veronica Bennett, later Ronnie Spector. Sonny and Cher sang backup vocals. The Wrecking Crew played the instruments, with Hal Blaine making an error in the drumming that stayed on the recording.

17. Great Balls Of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis. The song I most associate with Lewis was used in the 1957 movie Jamboree.


16. Light My Fire – The Doors. I’ll admit it. The album version of this song, which was often played on the radio despite its 7-minute length I grew to find tedious.

15. What’d I Say – Ray Charles. His first big crossover to pop hit is a great call-and-response. And also very suggestive, especially in part 2. Ray closed every live show with the song. The unedited version.

14.  Stand By Me– Ben E. King. This was a rewrite of an old gospel song by King, Leiber, and Stoller, released in 1961. It was featured on the soundtrack of the film of the same name a quarter of a century later. It was covered over 400 times, by Otis Redding, John Lennon, and many more.

13. Dancing In The Streets – Martha and the Vandellas. The song was written by Marvin Gaye, Mickey Stevenson, and Ivy Jo Hunter. The Vandellas had the hit in 1964 after Kim Weston passed on the piece. It was a party song, enjoying splashing through the open fire hydrants in the summer. But it was adopted as a civil rights anthem as well.

Hello, Darkness

12. The Sound Of Silence – Simon And Garfunkel. From Hello Darkness, My Old Friend: How Daring Dreams and Unyielding Friendship Turned One Man’s Blindness into an Extraordinary Vision for Life by Sanford D. Greenberg.  Much of this is accurate, but the part about the song, written by Paul Simon, of course,  is not.

Sandy was roommates with Art Garfunkel at Columbia University. [Sandy went blind from severe glaucoma and went back home, defeated, to Buffalo. But his buddy Art showed up at the front door.] Art escorted Sandy around campus and even referred to himself as “Darkness” to demonstrate his empathy with his friend. “Darkness is going to read to you now.”

While at Oxford, Sandy got a call from Art. Art had formed a folk-rock duo with his high school pal Paul Simon, and they desperately needed $400 to record their first album. Sandy and his wife Sue had literally $404 in their bank account, but without hesitation, Sandy gave his old friend what he needed. Art and Paul’s first album was not a success, but one of the songs, The Sounds Of Silence [later changed], became a #1 hit a year later. The opening line echoed the way Sandy always greeted Art.

11. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ – The Righteous Brothers. Written by Phil Spector, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil in 1964, it was the epitome of the Wall Of Sound.

Bridge Over Troubled Water – S&G

country, disco, soul…

Bridge over Troubled WaterSomeone 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

Arthur Garfunkel: “How terribly strange to be 70”

“Old Roger draft-dodger, leavin’ by the basement door, Everybody knows what he’s tippy-toeing down there for”

I have a strong recollection of our household getting the five Simon and Garfunkel studio albums, and it wasn’t in chronological order of their release.

First, there was Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (PSRT-1966), the third album, which my father purchased for himself. That album included Cloudy, which was covered in a more cheerful manner by The Cyrkle; The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy), covered even more pep by Harpers Bizarre; The Dangling Conversation; and my dad’s favorite, 7 O’Clock News/Silent Night. The latter always bothered me because the newscaster says that there were nine student nurses killed in the July 1966 massacre but there were ‘only’ eight killed, with the ninth one hiding under a bed.

Then I bought Sounds of Silence (SOS-1966), the second album, which featured We’ve Got a Groovy Thing Goin’, Blessed, and Richard Cory. We read the Edwin Arlington Robinson poem upon which the latter song was based, in 7th or 8th grade. We were all perplexed that that “I wish I could be” Richard Cory, even AFTER he put a bullet in his head.

The next purchase was Bookends (B-1968), the fourth album, which featured America (“We’ve all gone to look for America”); Fakin’ It (“not really makin’ it); Punky’s Dilemma (“Old Roger draft-dodger, leavin’ by the basement door, Everybody knows what he’s tippy-toeing down there for” – took a lot of razzing over that!); Mrs. Robinson (took me 40 years to see the Graduate – the folks I hung with at the time found the only movies that were acceptable to be from Disney – and I STILL don’t know what it means); and A Hazy Shade of Winter, which always felt like a potential Mamas & the Papas song.

Eventually got around to buying Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. (1964), the first album, which is more a folk collection, though it has the original version of Sounds of Silence.

Finally, there’s the masterpiece, Bridge Over Troubled Water (BOTW-1970), with El Condor Pasa and The Only Living Boy in New York.


On my Top 12 list, the top four were no-brainers – links to the songs.

12. I Am A Rock (SOS) – “And a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.” I related to this at the time far more than one could imagine.
11. My Little Town – this is a bit of a cheat, for it appears on Paul Simon’s solo album Still Crazy After All These Years AND Art’s solo album Breakaway. It reminds me of my hometown of Binghamton, NY, hardscrabble and shrinking.
10. Old Friends/Bookends (B)- I can’t separate the two. The title of the post comes from Old Friends. Have you noticed how melancholy a lot of these songs are?
9. A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara’d into Submission) (PSRT) – so this is probably the LOUDEST S&G song in the canon. And as mentioned before, this tease of Bob Dylan may have led to Dylan’s AWFUL version of The Boxer.
8. At the Zoo (B) – I wrote a whole blogpost about this song!
7. Patterns (PSRT) – I especially love the intro, which sounds like a guitar being tuned, and the effect over the lyric “until the rat dies.”
6. Cecilia (BOTW) – this is, astonishingly, practically biographical of me; that’s all I’m gonna say.
5. Homeward Bound (PSRT) – one of the greatest songs about the life of a performer.

4. Scarborough Fair/Canticle (‘The Graduate’ soundtrack, originally PSRT). When Simon and Garfunkel seemed to be slow going commercially, Simon went to England and recorded an album called The Paul Simon Songbook. Many of the songs showed up on later S&G albums. The lyrics to the song The Side of A Hill from that early album was incorporated into this tune.
3. The Sound Of Silence (SOS) – If a producer hadn’t taken the Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. version of this song, which sounds much like this live acoustic version, “overdubbed the recording with electric guitar… electric bass.. and drums… and released it as a single without consulting Simon or Garfunkel,” musical history would have been much different.
2. Bridge Over Troubled Water (BOTW) – from Wikipedia: “This song’s recording process exposed many of the underlying tensions that eventually led to the breakup of the duo…Most notably, Paul Simon has repeatedly expressed regret over his insistence that Art Garfunkel sing this song as a solo, as it focused attention on Garfunkel and relegated Simon to a secondary position. Art Garfunkel initially did not want to sing lead vocal, feeling it was not right for him.”
Are they kidding? Art Garfunkel’s ethereal voice on this track is one that practically brings me to tears.
1. The Boxer (BOTW) – yet it is this song, the single before the long-awaited album, which I think is about perfect. This version, that is. Not the live version with that “changes” verse. Peculiarly, some spammer left me a rather detailed description of The Boxer which I will use:
“Simon’s acoustic guitar tracks are exquisitely detailed… Set upon the implacable heartbeat of the kick drum, they dance and flutter like solemn butterflies. Very few major artists could get away with the opening line to this song, but Simon’s delivery not only suspends mundane reality, it welcomes the listener into a story so matter-of-factly that one simply assumes its authenticity. Garfunkel’s intimate, intuitive harmony is so finely crafted and performed that it’s nearly transparent; like the guitars, it focuses attention on the song, rather than itself. The inclusion of the bass harmonica compliments and emphasizes the narrative so well, that it achieves an aura of inevitability. It is nearly impossible to imagine the song without it.
Then one comes across that ephemeral guitar solo. Because the guitarist uses the volume knob or foot pedal to allow the notes to swell into being, the solo appears to glide into and out of awareness; a ghost moving serenely through the mist.

Simon stated, in a long-ago interview, that he was initially opposed to an extended ending for this song. At that time, Hey Jude had just recently taken that concept to the limits of pop utility (and then some!)and he didn’t want to appear to be contrived. Fortunately, Garfunkel and producer Roy Halee convinced him otherwise. And so it is, that after one of Simon’s most profoundly moving verses (listen to the restrained delivery on the last quatrain… HURTS), we are treated to layer upon layer of sonic textures, opening upon some facet of the many emotions implicit in the song. Simon DID prove his instincts were correct when, at the very end, everything drops out, save the acoustic guitars and a brief, haunting voice that seems to be singing to itself.”

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