“The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel

The lyrics of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” detail the story of two individuals who may actually be on in the same within the overall context of the track. The first is the narrator who basically points out that he left his “home” and “family” as a child seemingly to follow dreams of grandeur he believed awaited him in New York City.  These turned out to be “lies and jest” but at the time are what he wanted to hear. Yet since arriving he has dealt with harrowing poverty and loneliness, especially in the winter. And accordingly, he often fantasizes about “going home”.

The second character is the titular “boxer” who apparently has had his a*s handed to him regularly in the ring. These defeats and the “anger” and “shame” that go along with them have made him decide to quit. Yet it seems that he has decided to fight on.

Although these two characters are obviously different people, they also share similar characteristics. In fact it seems that “the boxer” may actually be a metaphor for the young man whose tale dominates the beginning. And why? They both have dealt with discouraging disappointments yet have still decided to remain in the fight.

Lyrics of "The Boxer"

Lyrics are autobiographical

It had been speculated in the past that the track was about Bob Dylan.  However, its writer, Paul Simon, later elucidated that the track is actually biographical in nature. Indeed he wrote it during a time when he was dealing with criticism which contrasted the praise he received earlier in his career.

Facts about “The Boxer”

  • “The Boxer” is featured on Simon & Garfunkel’s fifth studio album, Bridge Over Trouble Water
  • “The Boxer” made the list of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, coming in at number 106.
  • This song holds the distinction of taking longer to produce than any other Simon & Garfunkel track. Its production exceeded 100 hours and was conducted at locations throughout the country. One of such locations was at St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City.
  • During the recording of this track, Art Garfunkel met his wife, Linda Grossman. Garfunkel and Linda were briefly married from 1972 ’til 1975.
  • The chorus of “The Boxer”, which features the phrase “lie la lie” repeated continuously, was originally intended just to be a placeholder until more-advanced lyrics were inserted. Of course they decided to keep it in the final product. According to Simon, part of the track’s international appeal is due to the “lie la lie” phrase. We totally agree with him!
  • When Paul Simon received the Gershwin Prize from the Library of Congress in 2007, a collection of singers performed this track in his honor.
  • Some of the lyrics of “The Boxer” were inspired by passages from the Bible.
  • There is an additional verse to “The Boxer” which didn’t make the album cut but is regularly included when Paul Simon performs the song live.
  • Simon & Garfunkel produced this song alongside Roy Halee.

When did “The Boxer” come out?

It was released as a single through Columbia Records on 21 March 1969.

How did “The Boxer” perform in charts in America and across the globe?

It peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. In the United Kingdom, it performed better, reaching number 6. It also charted quite-high in a number of countries, most-notably being Canada. In this country, it actually reached number 1 on the RPM Adult Contemporary chart.

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