Culture Wikia
For the song, see Bridge over Troubled Water (song). For the Paul Desmond album, see Bridge over Troubled Water (Paul Desmond album).

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Bridge over Troubled Water is the fifth and final studio album by American folk rock duo Simon & Garfunkel, released in January 1970 on Columbia Records. Following the duo's soundtrack for The Graduate, Art Garfunkel took an acting role in the film Catch-22, while Paul Simon worked on the songs, writing all tracks except Felice and Boudleaux Bryant's "Bye Bye Love" (previously a hit for the Everly Brothers).

With the help of producer Roy Halee, the album followed a similar musical pattern as their Bookends, partly abandoning their traditional style in favor of a more creative sound, combining rock, R&B, gospel, jazz, world music, pop and other genres. After filming Catch-22, Garfunkel returned and the duo recorded around 14 tracks, three of which were not featured in the album. The inclusion of a 12th track was long discussed but they eventually decided upon 11 songs. It was described as both their "most effortless record and their most ambitious."[1]

Bridge over Troubled Water was released on January 26, 1970, and several re-releases followed. The album was mixed and released in both stereo and quadraphonic. Columbia Records released a 40th Anniversary Edition on March 8, 2011, which includes two DVDs, including the politically themed TV special Songs of America (1969), the documentary The Harmony Game, additional liner notes and a booklet. Other reissues contain bonus tracks, such as the 2001 version, which covers the demo tapes of "Feuilles-O" and "Bridge over Troubled Water".

Despite numerous accolades, the duo decided to split up, and parted company later in 1970; Garfunkel continued his film career, while Simon worked intensely with music. Both released solo albums in the following years. Bridge includes two of the duo's most critically acclaimed and commercially successful songs, "Bridge over Troubled Water" and "The Boxer", which were listed on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Both critically and commercially successful, the album topped the charts in over ten countries and received two Grammy Awards, plus four more for the title song. It sold around 25 million records and was ranked on several lists, including at number 51 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

The story of the making of the album is told in the 72 minute documentary The Harmony Game (2011), featuring interviews with both Simon & Garfunkel and various collaborators.


Simon & Garfunkel, initially "Tom & Jerry", were already successful in the music industry. Their Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, the soundtrack album for Mike Nichols' film The Graduate and Bookends peaked at number three, two and one in the US Billboard 200, respectively,[2] with the first and latter selling 3 million copies and 2 million copies in the United States alone.[3] Art Garfunkel took the role of Captain Nately in another Nichols film, Catch-22, based on the novel of the same name. Initially Paul Simon was to play the character of Dunbar, but screenwriter Buck Henry felt the film was already crowded with characters and subsequently wrote Simon's part out.[4][5] The unexpectedly long film production endangered the relationship between the duo;[5] Garfunkel later stated in a 1990 interview with Paul Zollo in SongTalk magazine: "our way of working was for Paul to write while we recorded. So we'd be in the studio for the better part of two months working on the three or four songs that Paul had written, recording them, and when they were done, we'd knock off for a couple of months while Paul was working on the next group of three or four songs. Then we'd book time and be in the studio again for three or four months, recording those ... rather than wait for Paul to write the next bunch of songs, I went off and did this movie."[6]


The filming of Catch-22 began in January 1969 and lasted about eight months.[7][8] Simon had not completed any new songs at this point, and the duo planned to collaborate when the filming would be finished. Roy Halee would produce the album, and as was the case with their most recent studio album, Bookends, they created an experimental sound, moving away from the typical folk rock and instead exploring new genres.[5]

Bridge over Troubled Water was also the duo's first album to credit the backing musicians in the liner notes. The credited musicians were Simon and Fred Carter, Jr. on guitars, and Hal Blaine on drums, Joe Osborn on bass and Larry Knechtel on keyboards, all of whom were famous Wrecking Crew members.[9][10]

Side One[]

As Simon and Garfunkel were working busily on recording, they had to decline invitations to perform, including at the Woodstock Festival.[11][12] Simon wrote "Bridge over Troubled Water".[13] Simon wanted a gospel piano sound, and so he hired session musician Larry Knechtel. The song was initially two verses long, but Garfunkel felt the song was too short, and asked Knechtel to play a third verse, to which Simon would write more lyrics. Osborn played two bass guitar parts, one high and the other low. Blaine recorded the drums in an echo chamber, to achieve a hall effect. A horn section rounded off the track. Due to a series of factors, the duo had to work on a new tape; an arranger falsely labeled the song as "Like a Pitcher of Water" and wrote Garfunkel's name incorrectly (GarFunkel), and the string part was unsatisfactory.[14]

Simon and Garfunkel then returned to New York to record the vocals.[15][16][17] The vocal style in "Bridge over Troubled Water" was inspired by Phil Spector's technique in "Old Man River" by The Righteous Brothers.[18] After two months the song was finalized. Simon himself admitted that it sounded like the Beatles' "Let It Be", stating in a Rolling Stone interview: "They are very similar songs, certainly in instrumentation ..."[19] The song has been covered by over 50 artists since then,[20] including Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.[21]

"Bridge Over Troubled Water" was influenced by the gospel music to which Simon was listening at that time, especially the Swan Silvertones and their song "Mary Don't You Weep".[22] The name of the title track was inspired by the latter's line "I'll be your bridge over deep water, if you trust in my name". According to gospel producer and historian Anthony Heilbut, Simon later acknowledged his musical debt to Claude Jeter in person, and additionally handed Jeter a check as compensation.[23] "Bridge over Troubled Water" was addressed to Simon's wife Peggy, whom he met that year. The "silver girl" in the song refers to her, and her first gray hairs, and not to a drugged hypodermic needle, as was believed by some in the United States.[24] Simon asked Garfunkel to sing lead on the song, and although Garfunkel initially refused this proposal and suggested that Simon should sing falsetto, later agreed to sing. Simon initially composed the song in G major, but arranger and composer Jimmie Haskell transposed the song to E-flat major to suit Garfunkel's voice.[13]

"El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)" is a Peruvian song based on traditional Andean music. Simon relied on erroneous information from Jorge Milchberg of Los Incas about the collection of royalties for his arrangement of song. Simon wrongfully thought it to be a traditional song and thus not restricted by copyright law, but in reality it was written by Peruvian Daniel Alomía Robles. His son Armando Robles Godoy filed a successful lawsuit later that year in 1970, citing that he held the song's copyright in the United States since his father's 1933 filing.[25] Simon wrote English lyrics to the instrumental recording by Los Incas,[26][20] and the song later became a forerunner of Simon's world music era as a solo artist.[27]

In the summer of 1969, Simon, his wife Peggy and Garfunkel rented a house on Blue Jay Way in Los Angeles, as Garfunkel did not want to withdraw from Catch-22, which was being filmed on the West Coast. In this session, the duo experimented with numerous objects to create unusual sounds, such as a falling bundle of drum sticks. Garfunkel had a cassette recorder with a reverberation effect, so that each sound received an echo. When finished, Simon gave the tape to Halee, who then worked on the song, condensing sounds and copying them. The song features Simon as percussionist on the xylophone, an instrument he had never played before, and as acoustic guitarist. He began with a random line: "You're breaking my heart. I'm down on my knees" and when finished it was what later became "Cecilia". The drummer was again Blaine,[28][29] and Simon's brother Eddie played on guitar.[20] The song is about an unfaithful girl who invites another lover to her bed, while the singer (the first) is in the bathroom. David Browne suggested that the name may be derived from the patron of music, Saint Cecilia.[30] It has an unusually fast tempo compared to their prior songs.[28]

Featuring the rockabilly style of The Everly Brothers,[31] "Keep the Customer Satisfied" recounts the exhausting tours that Simon grew tired of, a similar theme to that of their earlier song, "Homeward Bound".

"So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" is a tribute to the architect Frank Lloyd Wright but also to Garfunkel, the latter of whom wanted to train as an architect. It chronicles the early career of the duo and predicts their future split up. At the end Halee shouts "So long already, Artie", a portentous message.[32] Simon plays here a guitar style that has been described as Latin jazz[33] and bossa nova. Congas additionally contribute to the South American sound.[34]

Side two[]

The recordings for the folk ballad "The Boxer", which was already partly written by Simon in 1968 and released in March 1969 (it debuted on the WLS 89 Hit Parade at Template:Thinspace on 31 March 1969),[35][36] became one of the longest and toughest in the duo's career. The session lasted over 100 hours and took place at several locations. The second, main part was recorded in Nashville, at Columbia Studios, December 6–8, 1968. The third, final part and the horns were recorded inside St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University (Garfunkel's alma mater), and the strings at Columbia Studios. The song features Simon and Fred Carter, Jr. playing Martin guitars.[4] The echoing drums were played by Blaine in a corridor.[29][37] Other instruments include Bob Moore playing contra bass, tuba, Charlie McCoy playing harmonica, Pete Drake playing pedal steel guitar, Dobro[38] and a piccolo flute.[39] Bill Janovitz from AllMusic describes the song as "country, folk, orchestrated pop, and Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western soundtrack material".[38] Simon & Garfunkel became the first musicians to use 16-track recording, but as only two 8-track recorders were available, both had to be carefully manually synchronized to produce a clear sound.[40]

"Baby Driver", an uptempo and happy rock and roll song,[41] already released as a B-side of "The Boxer", tells about a boy who lives a comfortable life in a protected home, but who searches for adventures and one day decides to have his first sexual experience.[42][43] The recording features car noises, Beach Boys-like singing parts and absurd syllables.[44]

"The Only Living Boy in New York", "with its mix of strumming acoustic guitars, start-and-stop drums, and a far-off wall of harmonies", has, according to Bill Janovitz of AllMusic, similarities with some of Elton John's songs, especially "Rocket Man". In an interview with SongTalk, Simon guessed that 12 to 15 voices were used to record the "aaah"s, while Garfunkel said that he proposed those lines, stating "It's us around eight times screaming, and we mixed it down very softly ... I started getting into open-mouth harmony, in a very loud, strident way. We were screaming at the top of our lungs and inside an echo chamber. I remember that day that Dylan dropped by to visit. We came out of the booth after all this screaming, and there he was."[45] Simon wrote "The Only Living Boy in New York" while Garfunkel was filming in Mexico, and is about the resulting isolation he felt in New York.[46]

"Why Don't You Write Me", deals with separation from Simon's wife in a jungle.[46] In this song Simon experimented with the nascent genre of reggae for the first time,[30] a style he later explored in his solo career, most notably in "Mother and Child Reunion".[43]

Following the end of filming of Catch-22 in October, the first performance of their tour took place in Ames, Iowa. The concert included The Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love", backed by the audience's hand clapping. Simon & Garfunkel were fascinated with its sound, so they repeated it a second time for a recording; while the first try failed, they liked the second attempt and included the latter on Bridge over Trouble Water.[47] The US leg of the tour ended in the sold-out Carnegie Hall on November 27.[48] Three days later, their show Songs of America was broadcast on CBS, only one time on November 30, 1969,[49] then it was banned. After numerous fan letters to the duo, with suggestions to not intervene in politics, but rather continue doing music, the duo did not release any similar TV specials.[50] "Bye Bye Love" became a farewell song and a sign of a new career.[51]

The album's final song, "Song for the Asking," represents an "olive branch" extended by each of the duo's members to the other and holding open the possibility of reconciliation and further collaboration.

Songs of America special[]

In 1969, the duo was invited to perform on The Bell Telephone Hour, but could not due to scheduling issues. Sponsor American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) proposed a one-hour US$600,000 show, and Life commentator and documentary producer Robert Drew developed the concept. One week before their appearance, the duo produced, with the help of actor Charles Grodin, the TV special Songs of America, which was intended to be played during their performance on November 30, 1969.[52] Songs of America is a mixture of scenes featuring notable political events and leaders concerning the USA, such as the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy's funeral procession, Cesar Chavez, and the Poor People's March. In addition, the film shows American heroic figures such as the Lone Ranger, Dick Clark, baseball player Mickey Mantle, comedian Lenny Bruce, and politician Eugene McCarthy. After many disputes due to controversial scenes between the various parties involved, the film was disowned by the sponsor. Simon and Garfunkel were furious about this decision and they both returned to CBS studios to talk with the censors. One of the censors was of the opinion that the director had used the sponsor's money to promote his humanistic ideology. After Grodin asked "You mean there are people who are against the humanistic approach in America?", the representative answered "You're goddam right there are – the southern affiliates of AT&T are not going to appreciate seeing black and white kids going to school together". While the new backer, shampoo manufacturer Alberto Culver, agreed to fund the broadcast for $55,000,[52] AT&T replaced the duo with the rock bands The Yellow Payges, Jefferson Airplane and the New York Rock & Roll Ensemble.[53][37][54]


After breaking for Christmas, the duo continued working on the album in early 1970 and finished it in late January. Eleven tracks were featured on this album; one finished song, "Cuba Si, Nixon No", as well as other additional tracks were excluded. Garfunkel did not like this song and proposed instead a chorale, entitled "Feuilles-O", with which Simon disagreed. After a discussion, they decided to not include more tracks.[55]

Bridge over Troubled Water charted in over 11 countries,[clarification needed] topping the charts in 10 countries, including the US Billboard 200 and the UK Albums Chart.[56][57] It was the best-selling album in 1970, 1971 and 1972 and was at that time the best-selling album of all time.[36] It remained CBS Records' best-selling album until the release of Michael Jackson's Thriller in 1982.[58] The album topped the Billboard 200 charts for 10 weeks and stayed in the charts for 85 weeks.[36] According to Columbia Records, 1.7 million copies were sold in the first three weeks in the United States.[34] In the United Kingdom, the album topped the charts for 35 weeks, and spent 285 weeks in the top 100, from 1970 to 1975.[36] Furthermore, it received 8× Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and 4× Platinum in Canada.[36] Bridge over Troubled Water has since sold 3,163,789 copies in the UK,[59] and over 25 million copies worldwide.[60]

The songs "Cuba Si, Nixon No", "Groundhog", and the demo "Feuilles-O" were recorded during sessions but not released on the album.[61][62] "Cuba Si, Nixon No" was later released on a bootleg recording of a November 11, 1969 concert by Simon and Garfunkel at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio,[63] while the demo recording of "Feuilles-O" was later released on the Old Friends and The Columbia Studio Recordings (1964–1970) box sets.[62] A remastered and expanded version of the album was released on compact disc in 2001, containing the demo versions of "Feuilles-O" and "Bridge over Troubled Water." It was remastered by Vic Anesini.[62] Garfunkel later recorded "Feuilles-Oh/Do Space Men Pass Dead Souls on Their Way to the Moon?" on his debut solo album Angel Clare, and as the flip-side to his single, "I Shall Sing", from the same album.[64]

Columbia Records released a 40th Anniversary Edition on March 8, 2011, comprising three discs. The first disc features the original album and the second disc contains the entirety of Live 1969, which had been released three years earlier as an exclusive at Starbucks. The third disc, a DVD, consisted of the television special Songs of America, which originally aired in 1969 on CBS and unavailable since its original broadcast, and a new documentary The Harmony Game about the making of the album. Songs of America comprised footage of the 1969 tour, intimate backstage conversations, and historic news clips; it had elicited controversy owing to the duo's political comments regarding the Vietnam War and the direction of American society at the time. The Harmony Game featured new 2010 interviews with Simon, Garfunkel, producer Roy Halee, and more principals involved with the making of the album. The 1969 special runs for approximately 52 minutes 37 seconds, while the 2010 documentary runs for approximately 70 minutes 54 seconds. A booklet of liner notes, photos, and essays by critics Michael Hill and Anthony DeCurtis was also included.[65][62]

The album is also included in its entirety as part of the Simon & Garfunkel box sets Collected Works and The Columbia Studio Recordings (1964–1970).

Reception and legacy[]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg[66]
American Songwriter5/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg[67]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg[68]
PopMatters8/10 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg[65]
Q4/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg[69]
Rolling Stone5/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg[70]
Uncut3/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg[72]
The Village VoiceB[73]

Bridge over Troubled Water received a generally positive critical reception. The record was both criticized and lauded for its individual sound, incorporating genres ranging from rock, R&B, gospel, jazz, world music and pop. Writing in Melody Maker in February 1970, Richard Williams identified "a few dull moments" on the album, adding "but they're worth enduring for the jewels they surround". Williams concluded: "Not, perhaps, another classic like Bookends, but still worth hearing for Simon's constantly surprising timing, and for the way he can make his guitar sound like a small orchestra and the orchestra sound like a big guitar ..."[74]

Among retrospective reviews, Bruce Eder of AllMusic said that Bridge over Troubled Water was "perhaps the most delicately textured album to close out the 1960s from any major rock act", especially in a time of troubles in the United States.[66] Author and critic David Browne noted the album's "sonic warmth and richness".[30] Although Stephen M. Deusner of Pitchfork also praised the unique sound, he said that "Bridge sounds like a unified statement enlivened by styles and rhythms not often heard on pop radio at the juncture of those two decades."[1] Steve Horowitz of PopMatters criticized the uncommon sound and the stand-alone recording, which for him resembled The Beatles' White Album.[65]

In a 2001 review for Uncut, Ian MacDonald found the album "overproduced and underwritten", adding: "Where Bookends is succinct, dry, and disciplined, Bridge ... is self-satisfied, sentimental, mediocre, and overblown. Even its best song, 'The Boxer', is needlessly inflated and protracted."[72] Writing for MusicHound, Leland Rucker acknowledged that the duo's 1970 album "is considered their masterpiece", but he opined: "today it sounds top-heavy, overproduced, and too precious for its own good."[75] Conversely, Q magazine deemed Bridge over Troubled Water to be Simon & Garfunkel's best and most consistent work, "notable for the strength of its melodies, the force of its lyrics and the Abbey Road-style sophistication of its production".[69] In his book The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Colin Larkin admires the album as a "celebrated" work that includes a "classic single" ("The Boxer") and a title song that "became a standard with Garfunkel's angelic vocal set perfectly matched to the lush, orchestral arrangement and contrasting tempo".[76] Joe Nolan of American Songwriter notes that "the pair were never more popular or commercially successful than they were with the release of Bridge over Troubled Water".[67]

The album won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, as well as for Best Engineered Recording, while its title track won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Contemporary Song of the Year and the Instrumental Arrangement of the Year in 1971. Bridge over Troubled Water was nominated at the first Brit Awards for Best International Album and its title track for Best International Single in 1977.[77] In 2003, it was ranked at Template:Thinspace on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[78] In December 1993, The Times ranked the album at number 20 on its "The Vultures 100 Best Albums of all Time".[79]

Chris Charlesworth, author of The Complete Guide to the Music of Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel, gave a mixed reception, noting that seven songs ("Bridge over Troubled Water", "El Condor Pasa", "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright", "The Boxer", "The Only Living Boy in New York", "Bye Bye Love" and "Song for the Asking") were outstanding or good, while the rest, mainly uptempo ones, were for him "throwaway" recordings. He was surprised at its success.[80]


As was the case during the recordings of Bridge over Troubled Water, both musicians became rather independent. Garfunkel took a role in another Mike Nichols film, Carnal Knowledge, in the role of Sandy, for which he later earned a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor nomination.[81] Filming started in May 1970. Meanwhile, Simon attended a one-week songwriting course at New York University, studied music theory and listened to numerous types of music. The duo's last performance at that time was in the Forest Hills Stadium in the summer of 1970. Simon worked on his second studio (and first post-Simon & Garfunkel) solo album between January and March 1971, which was later released as Paul Simon, while Garfunkel revived his music career with Angel Clare, released in September 1973.[82][83][84]

Track listing[]

Bonus tracks (2001 CD reissue)
12."Feuilles-O (Demo)"Traditional, arranged by Simon, Art GarfunkelAugust 11, 19691:45
13."Bridge over Troubled Water (Demo Take 6)" (Previously unreleased) August 13, 19694:46




Single Chart Position
"Bridge over Troubled Water" Australian Kent Music Report Chart[85] 2
Austrian Ö3 Top 40 Chart[109] 4
Dutch Mega Albums Chart[110] 5
Norwegian VG-lista Albums Chart[111] 7
UK Singles Chart[112] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[56] 1
US Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart[56] 1
West German Media Control Albums Chart[113] 3
"Cecilia" Australian Kent Music Report Chart[85] 6
Austrian Ö3 Top 40 Chart[109] 6
Dutch Mega Albums Chart[110] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[56] 4
West German Media Control Albums Chart[113] 2
"El Condor Pasa (If I Could)" Australian Kent Music Report Chart[85] 1
Austrian Ö3 Top 40 Chart[109] 1
Dutch Mega Albums Chart[110] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[56] 18
US Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart[56] 6
West German Media Control Albums Chart[113] 1


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Austria (IFPI Austria)[114] Platinum Expression error: Missing operand for *.*
Canada (Music Canada)[115] 4× Platinum 400,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[116] Gold 25,000[116]
France (SNEP)[118] Platinum 573,500[117]
Germany (BVMI)[119] Platinum Expression error: Missing operand for *.^
Japan (Oricon) 441,000[120]
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[121] Gold 25,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[122] 10× Platinum 3,163,789[59]
United States (RIAA)[123] 8× Platinum 8,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


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  • Charlesworth, Chris (1997). "Bridge Over Troubled Water". The Complete Guide to the Music of Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-5597-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Fornatale, Pete (2007). Simon and Garfunkel's Bookends. Rodale. ISBN 978-1-59486-427-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. ISBN 1-57859-061-2.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Humphries, Patrick (1982). Bookends: the Simon and Garfunkel story. Proteus Books.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Kingston, Victoria (2000). Simon & Garfunkel: The Biography. Fromm International. ISBN 978-0-88064-246-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External links[]

Template:Simon and Garfunkel Template:Grammy Award for Album of the Year 1970s Template:Billboard Year-End number one albums 1970–1989 Template:UK best-selling albums (by year) 1970–1989