Bridge over Troubled Water (song)
|"Bridge over Troubled Water"|
|Single by Simon & Garfunkel|
|from the album Bridge over Troubled Water|
|B-side||"Keep the Customer Satisfied"|
|Released||January 26, 1970|
|Recorded||November 9, 1969|
|Genre||Folk rock, gospel|
|Producer(s)||Roy Halee, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel|
|Simon & Garfunkel singles chronology|
"Bridge over Troubled Water" is a song by American music duo Simon & Garfunkel from their fifth studio album, Bridge over Troubled Water (1970). Produced by the duo themselves and Roy Halee, the song was released as the album's lead single on January 26, 1970. Composed by singer-songwriter Paul Simon, the song is performed on piano and carries the influence of gospel music. The original studio recording employs elements of Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" technique.
It was the last song recorded for their fifth and final album, but the first fully completed. The song's instrumentation was recorded in California while the duo's vocals were cut in New York. Simon felt his partner, Art Garfunkel, should sing the song solo, an invitation Garfunkel initially declined. Session musician Larry Knechtel performs piano on the song, with Joe Osborn playing bass guitar and Hal Blaine closing out the song with drums. The song won five awards at the 13th Annual Grammy Awards in 1971, including Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
The song became Simon & Garfunkel's biggest hit single, and it is often considered their signature song. It was a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks, and it also topped the charts in the United Kingdom, Canada, France, and New Zealand. It was a top five hit in eight other countries as well. It became one of the most performed songs of the twentieth century, with over 50 artists, among them Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin, covering the song. It was ranked number 48 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
- 1 Background
- 2 Commercial performance
- 3 Awards
- 4 Covers
- 5 Chart performance
- 6 Notes
- 7 External links
"Bridge over Troubled Water" was composed by Paul Simon very quickly, so much so that he asked himself, "Where did that come from? It doesn't seem like me." The chorus lyrics were partly inspired by Claude Jeter's line "I'll be your bridge over deep water if you trust in me," which Jeter sang with his group, the Swan Silvertones, in the 1958 song "Mary Don't You Weep." According to gospel producer and historian Anthony Heilbut, Simon later acknowledged his musical debt to Jeter in person, and additionally handed Jeter a check as compensation. Simon wrote the song initially on guitar, but decided to transpose it to the piano, to both better reflect the gospel influence and to suit Garfunkel's voice.
When Simon showed the song to his partner, he informed him that he felt he should sing it by himself, the "white choirboy way." Garfunkel declined, feeling it was not right for him and believing that Simon should sing it. Garfunkel reportedly liked Simon's falsetto on the demo and suggested that Simon sing. He and producer Roy Halee also thought the song needed three verses and a 'bigger' sound towards the end. Simon agreed and penned the final verse, though he felt it was less than fully cohesive with the earlier verses. The final verse was written about Simon's then-wife Peggy Harper, who had noticed her first gray hairs ("Sail on, silvergirl"). It does not refer to a drugged hypodermic needle, as was believed by some in the United States.
"Bridge over Troubled Water" was the final track to be recorded but the first one fully completed, with an additional two weeks of post-production. 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. The song was recorded in California, to make it easier for Garfunkel to go to Mexico to film Catch-22. 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. Joe Osborn played the two bass guitars, one high and the other low. A horn section rounded off the song. The drums were played in an echo chamber to achieve a hall effect. 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", wrote Garfunkel's name incorrectly and the string part was unsatisfactory.
Simon and Garfunkel then returned to New York to record the vocals. The vocal style in "Bridge over Troubled Water" was inspired by Phil Spector's technique in "Old Man River" by The Righteous Brothers. After two months the song was finalized. Simon himself admitted that it sounded like the Beatles' "Let It Be", stating in an Rolling Stone interview: "They are very similar songs, certainly in instrumentation ..."
As their relations frayed preceding their 1970 breakup, Simon began to feel jealous that he allowed Garfunkel to sing it solo:
He felt I should have done it, and 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..."
Despite the song's five-minute length, Columbia decided to service the song to pop radio. Bob Dylan had previously landed a song past the three-minute barrier on AM radio with "Like a Rolling Stone" in 1965, which played into Columbia's decision. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on February 28, 1970, and stayed at the top of the chart for six weeks. "Bridge over Troubled Water" also topped the adult contemporary chart in the U.S. for six weeks. Billboard ranked it as the No. 1 song for 1970. The single has sold 6 million copies worldwide.
Aretha Franklin's gospel-inspired studio-recorded cover version released in March 1971 reached number one on the U.S. R&B chart and number six on the pop chart, and later won the Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in the 1972 awards. Her live performance of the song at the Grammy Awards was released on the 1994 album Grammy's Greatest Moments Volume III.
Elvis Presley recorded it in Nashville on June 5, 1970, and it was released on the 1970 album That's the Way It Is (with a false audience fade-out). He included it in his set list for his next engagement in Las Vegas, which included the filming of the 1970 documentary Elvis: That's the Way It Is, and the song was included in the original theatrical release (included version is from the August 11 dinner show). During that summer season in Vegas, Paul Simon attended one of the shows, and, after seeing Elvis perform the song, he was reported to have said, "That's it, we might as well all give up now." Presley continued to use this song throughout his live performances, including his final live appearance in Indianapolis on June 26, 1977. Another live performance was seen in the Golden Globe-winning documentary Elvis on Tour, filmed at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina, on April 14, 1972. Elvis even sang it at one of his Madison Square Garden Shows back in June 1972.
On the studio version, Robert Matthew Watson wrote in his book Heartbreak Hotel: "Presley's outstanding singing is not disguised. This is a fabulous version, burning with sincerity and power, and finding depths not revealed by the composers."
Linda Clifford, Curtis Mayfield's protegee signed on his Curtom label released an up-tempo disco version of "Bridge over Troubled Water" on her album Let Me Be Your Woman in March 1979. This epic version (10:20 in length) was produced by Gil Askey (jazz trumpet player and musical director for many Motown acts) and mixed by Jimmy Simpson, brother of Valerie Simpson from Ashford and Simpson. The song has two originalities, the first one being a 132 bpm tempo (considered the ideal tempo for disco dancing) when the Simon and Garfunkel original is 82 bpm and Aretha Franklin's cover is 76 bpm. It was the first time that this song was covered with a fast tempo. It also has a highly original " Brazilian cuica on a disco beat" break. It became a US disco #11, pop #41, R&B #49 and UK #28.
Cantonese lyrics rewriting of the song was Many hearts prevail (zh:滔滔千里心) was collectively sung by many Hong Kong singers for public shows in Hong Kong to raise fund after Eastern China flood of 1991 and in Artistes 88 Fund Raising Campaign.
Other notable covers
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (November 2013)|
- Merry Clayton (on her album Gimme Shelter)
- Elvis Presley (on his live Las Vegas Shows)
- The Jackson 5 (on their Third Album)
- Nana Mouskouri
- Swedish singer Tommy Körberg recorded a translation by Åke Arenhill to Swedish entitled "Som en bro över mörka vatten" (Like a bridge over dark water). It was later also recorded by Nanne Grönvall for her 2007 album "Jag måste kyssa dig".
- The Supremes
- Andy Williams (on his album, Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head)
- B.J. Thomas (on his album Everybody's Out of Town)
- Shirley Bassey (on her album Something Else)
- Roberta Flack (on her album Quiet Fire)
- Buck Owens and the Buckaroos covered the song for the country music market. A departure from Owens' usual Bakersfield Sound, his version reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in March 1971.
- Neil Sedaka combined it with the Irish folk tune "Londonderry Air" in his album On Stage in Australia.
- Willie Nelson covered the song on his 1982 album, Always on My Mind. He also performed the song during the closing ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- Stimela and Ray Phiri 1988 Live on stage.
- The Dramatics covered the song on their 1989 album Positive State of Mind.
- Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, BeBe Winans and CeCe Winans performed the song at the Family Night Special in 1991.
- CeCe Winans and Whitney Houston also performed the song on the VH1 Honors in 1995.
- Natalie Cole and Whitney Houston performed the song in 1990.
- In 1987, the song was covered on Saturday Night Live by the Sweeney Sisters (Jan Hooks and Nora Dunn). They sang the song to Simon, who was the episode's host.
- In 1991 P.J.B. feat. Hannah And Her Sisters, a US group assembled by Pete Bellotte and fronted by British singer Hannah Jones released a dance cover which got to No. 21. in the UK Singles Charts.
- In 1991, Russian singer Alexander Gradsky covered the song on the album Metamorphoses.
- A Cantonese version of this song was done in Hong Kong in 1991 as a fundraiser for the Eastern China flood of 1991.
- In 1994, saxophonist Richard Elliot covered the song from album After Dark. In 2001, the song was chosen for ballad compilation album, Ballads.
- In 1995, Bonnie Tyler covered the song on the album Free Spirit.
- In 1996, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora covered the song during a concert for charity.
- In 1997, LeAnn Rimes covered the song on the album You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs.
- In 1999, Anne Murray covered the song on the album What a Wonderful World.
- In 2001, Russell Watson covered the song on the album The Voice.
- In 2002, Johnny Cash covered the song on the album American IV: The Man Comes Around.
- In 2004, Michael W. Smith covered the song on the album Healing Rain.
- In 2005, Anthony Callea covered the song as part of a double A-sided single with "Rain". It was #1 in Australia.
- In 2006, Bebi Dol covered the song on the live album Veče u pozorištu.
- In 2007, Barry Manilow covered the song on the album The Greatest Songs of the Seventies.
- In 2008, Kate Ceberano recorded a version for her album So Much Beauty.
- David Foster, Andrea Bocelli, and Mary J. Blige performed the song on January 31, 2010, during the 52nd Grammy Awards ceremony, in the context of raising awareness for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. This version reached #75 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Annie Lennox performed a cover on April 25, 2007 live on Idol Gives Back.
- The song was covered on October 5, 2010, for the television show Glee 's episode which centered on spirituality. The cover was performed by Amber Riley as her character, Mercedes Jones.
- This song was performed by Celtic Woman, accompanied by the Gwinnett Young Singers in September 2011, as part of their "Believe" concert.
- In 2011, Singapore singer Kit Chan covered this song in her comeback album (Re-interpreting '重譯').
- The song has also been performed by Robert Goulet, Perry Como, Anita Baker, Michael W. Smith, Clay Aiken, Ronnie Dyson, Roy Orbison, Morten Harket, Josh Groban, Glen Campbell, Brian McKnight, Aretha Franklin, Eva Cassidy, Stevie Wonder, Peggy Lee, Bon Jovi, Rhydian Roberts, Black Label Society, Casiopea, Charlotte Church, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Elton John, Guilherme Arantes, Jacob Lusk, Chris Mann, Kerli and Leona Lewis
- In 2012, David Archuleta covered the song on his fifth studio album Begin.
- Jackie Evancho performed this song March 22, 2013, during the Cirque Du Soleil performance on World Water Day in Las Vegas, NV.
- In 2013, Dami Im recorded a version for her album Dami Im. The album was #1 in Australia.
- On December 9, 2013, Tessanne Chin covered the song on Season 5 of NBC's singing competition, The Voice for the Semifinal round. The song went to the #1 spot on iTunes within 12 hours, with her becoming the first (and ultimately only) contestant to achieve the top chart position at the end of an applicable voting window that season.
- Sting performed this song with Paul Simon on their "Paul Simon & Sting On Stage Together" tour in 2014.
- In 2014, John Barrowman covered the song on the album You Raise Me Up.
- In 2014, Susan Boyle covered the song on the album Hope.
|Canadian RPM Top Singles||1|
|Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks||1|
|French Singles Chart||1|
|New Zealand Singles Chart||1|
|U.K. Singles Chart||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks||1|
|Australian Singles Chart (Kent)||2|
|Irish Singles Chart||2|
|Spanish Singles Chart||2|
|German Singles Chart||3|
|Austrian Top 40||4|
|South African top 20 ||4|
|Dutch Top 40||5|
|Swiss Singles Chart||5|
|Norwegian Singles Chart||7|
|Belgian Singles Chart (Flanders)||23|
"Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" / "Everybody Is a Star" by Sly & the Family Stone
|Billboard Hot 100 number-one single (Simon and Garfunkel version)
February 28, 1970 (six weeks)
"Let It Be" by The Beatles
"I'll Never Fall in Love Again" by Dionne Warwick
|Billboard Easy Listening Singles number-one single (Simon and Garfunkel version)
February 28, 1970 (six weeks)
"Let It Be" by The Beatles
"Never Can Say Goodbye" by The Jackson 5
|Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles number-one single (Aretha Franklin version)
May 22, 1971 (one week)
"Want Ads" by Honey Cone
"Want Ads" by Honey Cone
|Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles number-one single (Aretha Franklin version)
June 5, 1971 (one week)
"Want Ads" by Honey Cone
"Wand'rin' Star" by Lee Marvin
|UK Singles Chart number-one single
(Simon and Garfunkel version)
March 28, 1970 (three weeks)
"All Kinds of Everything" by Dana
"There there" by Radiohead
|Canadian number-one single (Clay Aiken version)
June 28, 2003 (thirteen weeks)
"Someday" by Nickelback
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- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics