Bridge over Troubled Water (song)

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"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
Format 7"
Recorded November 9, 1969
Genre Folk rock, gospel[1]
Length 4:55
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Paul Simon
Producer(s) Roy Halee, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel
Simon & Garfunkel singles chronology
"The Boxer"
(1969)
"Bridge over Troubled Water"
(1970)
"Cecilia"
(1970)


Music sample
Bridge over Troubled Water track listing
"Bridge over Troubled Water"
(1)
"El Condor Pasa (If I Could)"
(2)

"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.[2]

It was the last song recorded for their fifth and final album, but the first fully completed.[3] The song's instrumentation was recorded in California while the duo's vocals were cut in New York.[3][4][5][6] Simon felt his partner, Art Garfunkel, should sing the song solo, an invitation Garfunkel initially declined.[7] 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.

Background[edit]

"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."[7] 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."[8] 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.[9] 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.[3]

When Simon showed the song to his partner, he informed him that he felt he should sing it by himself, the "white choirboy way."[7] Garfunkel declined, feeling it was not right for him and believing that Simon should sing it.[3] 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.[10] The final verse was written about Simon's then-wife Peggy Harper, who had noticed her first gray hairs ("Sail on, silvergirl").[11][12] It does not refer to a drugged hypodermic needle, as was believed by some in the United States.[13]

"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.[3] 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.[14] The song was recorded in California, to make it easier for Garfunkel to go to Mexico to film Catch-22.[6] 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.[15]

Simon and Garfunkel then returned to New York to record the vocals.[16][4][3] The vocal style in "Bridge over Troubled Water" was inspired by Phil Spector's technique in "Old Man River" by The Righteous Brothers.[17] 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 ..."[18]

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..."[7]

Commercial performance[edit]

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.[19] 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.[20] Billboard ranked it as the No. 1 song for 1970.[21] The single has sold 6 million copies worldwide.[22]

Awards[edit]

The single won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Song of the Year in the Grammy Awards of 1971, with its album also winning several awards in the same year.

Covers[edit]

The song has been covered by over 50 artists,[23] including Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.[24]

Aretha Franklin[edit]

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,[25] 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.[26]

Elvis Presley[edit]

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[1], 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."[27] 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[edit]

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 version[edit]

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.[28]

Other notable covers[edit]

1970[edit]

1971[edit]

1972[edit]

1973[edit]

1974[edit]

1980s[edit]

1990s[edit]

2000s[edit]

2010s[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1970)[64] Peak
position
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[65] 2
German Singles Chart 3
Austrian Top 40 4
South African top 20 [66] 4
Dutch Top 40 5
Swiss Singles Chart 5
Norwegian Singles Chart 7
Belgian Singles Chart (Flanders) 23
Preceded by
"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)
Succeeded by
"Let It Be" by The Beatles
Preceded by
"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)
Succeeded by
"Let It Be" by The Beatles
Preceded by
"Never Can Say Goodbye" by The Jackson 5
Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles number-one single (Aretha Franklin version)
May 22, 1971 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Want Ads" by Honey Cone
Preceded by
"Want Ads" by Honey Cone
Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles number-one single (Aretha Franklin version)
June 5, 1971 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Want Ads" by Honey Cone
Preceded by
"Wand'rin' Star" by Lee Marvin
UK Singles Chart number-one single
(Simon and Garfunkel version)

March 28, 1970 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"All Kinds of Everything" by Dana
Preceded by
"There there" by Radiohead
Canadian number-one single (Clay Aiken version)
June 28, 2003 (thirteen weeks)
Succeeded by
"Someday" by Nickelback

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

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  3. ^ a b c d e f Eliot 2010, p. 104.
  4. ^ a b Browne 2012, p. 30.
  5. ^ Eliot 2010, p. 61.
  6. ^ a b Eliot 2010, p. 111.
  7. ^ a b c d Eliot 2010, p. 105.
  8. ^ Sisario, Ben. "Claude Jeter, Gospel Singer With Wide Influence, Dies at 94 ", The New York Times, January 10, 2009. Accessed January 11, 2009.
  9. ^ Hinckley, David (8 January 2009). "Legendary singer Claude Jeter dies". New York Daily News. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  10. ^ Kingston, Victoria, Simon and Garfunkel: the Definitive Biography, Sidgwick & Jackson, UK, 1996 p.101-02
  11. ^ Dawidoff, Nicholas (May 12, 2011). "Paul Simon's Restless Journey". Rolling Stone (1130): 60–61. 
  12. ^ Dawidoff, Nioclas (25 August 2011). "Paul Simon’s Restless Journey". Features. Rolling Stone India. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  13. ^ Bennighof 2007, p. 43.
  14. ^ Ebel 2004, pp. 58-60.
  15. ^ Giles Smith (September 11, 1994). "Lives of the great songs / Bridge over troubled water". The Independent. Retrieved August 14, 2012. 
  16. ^ Ebel 2004, p. 61.
  17. ^ "Across America Promotional CD Interview With Art". Art Garfunkel Official Website. Retrieved August 15, 2012. 
  18. ^ Browne 2012, p. 154.
  19. ^ Eliot 2010, p. 106.
  20. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition (Billboard Publications)
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Sources[edit]

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