“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
The title of this song is a metaphor, which the singer is applying to himself. He is saying that he will be “like a bridge over troubled water”, and he is making this statement to the addressee. Said individual would be a loved one. But more to the point, as illustrated by the first and second verses, this person is going through a trying time in his or her life. That is what the “troubled water” symbolizes. But the singer is prepared to “lay… down”, as in make whatever personal sacrifices are necessary, to help this person successfully traverse this situation.
Meanwhile the third verse is slightly different from the first and second. It was not a part of Paul Simon’s original composition, and he penned it at the behest of Art Garfunkel and the track’s co-producer, Roy Halee. It starts off by referencing a “Silver Girl”, who was later revealed to be Paul Simon’s wife at the time, Peggy Harper. But it is not necessarily addressed to her. Generally speaking, the passage fits into the overall sentiment of “Bridge Over Troubled Water'”. And that is the singer offering his support to the addressee if, in this particular case, she “need(s) a friend”.
“Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down”
Conclusively, the reason this song has remained pertinent throughout the years is due to its timeless message of human sympathy. And in that regard, it is hypothesized that the tumultuous circumstances of late-1960s’ America are what truly initially inspired Simon to pen this type of tune.
Release Date of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
This is the title track of the last album Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel did together. The song was officially released with the album on 26 January 1970. And the label that put it out is Columbia Records.
Writing and Production
Bridge Over Troubled Water was written by Paul Simon. But it is actually sung by Art Garfunkel. And they both produced the tune in conjunction with Roy Halee.
It was at Simon’s insistence that Garfunkel sang this song. And later, when their relationship fell apart, Paul went on to regret making that decision, especially considering how much the tune blew up.
It has been noted that Simon put the song together rather quickly, describing its unexpected composition as somewhat of a divine experience. His inspiration was the Swan Silvertones’ 1958 rendition of a folk spiritual called “Mary Don’t You Weep”. And another old-time track which inspired the sound of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was the Righteous Brothers’ version of “Old Man River”.
On the instrumental side, Simon & Garfunkel utilized a group of famous session musicians who were known as the Wrecking Crew.
A Very Successful Song
This track went on to become the pair’s signature tune. For instance, it holds the distinction of being placed amongst the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, as deemed by Rolling Stone.
Also it astonishingly took home five Grammy Awards in 1971. Among these Grammies include the highly-coveted Record of the Year in addition to the Song of the Year distinctions.
And in terms of its chart performance, it did in fact top the Billboard Hot 100, UK Singles Chart and Canada 100. Throughout the world, it charted in 15 countries. And it also achieved Gold certification in the US and UK.
Covers of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
And in addition to selling in excess of 6,000,000 copies globally, this classic is also recognized as “one of the most performed songs of the 20th century”. And in that regard it has been covered by some of the biggest names in music history such as the following:
- Elvis Presley
- Willie Nelson
- Peggy Lee
- The Jackson 5
- The Supremes
- Roberta Flack
- Mary J. Blige alongside Andrea Bocelli and Fiona Apple in conjunction with Johnny Cash
Aretha Franklin also dropped her own version in 1972, which went on to win a Grammy itself.
Moreover, concerning the tune’s global popularity, there is also a well-received Cantonese version of this classic. Said version has been used a couple of times for charitable purposes in Hong Kong.
Also a collection of British musicians, known as the Artists for Grenfell, released a remix of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in 2017. This too was a charity single, in response to a tragedy known as the Grenfell Tower fire. And this version of the song also managed to top the UK Singles Chart.
Bridge Over You
Then there is another track entitled “Bridge Over You”. This is actually a cross between “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Fix You“, the latter being a song dropped by Coldplay in 2005. “Bridge Over You” was put together by the choir of a British institution known as the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust. This song also reached number one on the UK Singles Chart in 2015, during the listing’s highly-competitive Christmas season at that.
A Song that Supports Good Causes
And fundamentally “Bridge Over Troubled Water” has become one of those types of songs that tends to popup whenever there is a major catastrophe, as in being regularly performed by popular musicians at charity events. For instance, despite being disbanded, Art & Garfunkel reunited to sing the tune on the behalf of raising money for those negatively affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Did “Bridge Over Troubled Water” inspire Coldplay’s “Fix You”?
While it sounds like it did, Coldplay are yet to state whether or not they got any inspiration from this classic in penning theirs.