Mrs. Robinson

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"Mrs. Robinson"
Single by Simon & Garfunkel
from the album Bookends
B-side "Old Friends"/"Bookends"
Released April 5, 1968
Format 7" single
Recorded February 2, 1968
Columbia Studio A
(New York City)[1]
Genre
Length 4:02
Label Columbia
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
Simon & Garfunkel singles chronology
"Scarborough Fair/Canticle"
(1967)
"America"
(1968)
"The Boxer"
(1969)

"Mrs. Robinson" is a song by American music duo Simon & Garfunkel from their fourth studio album, Bookends (1968). Produced by the duo themselves and Roy Halee, the song is famous for its inclusion in the 1967 film The Graduate. The song was written by Paul Simon, who pitched it to director Mike Nichols alongside Art Garfunkel after Nichols rejected two other songs intended for the film. The song contains a famous reference to baseball star Joe DiMaggio.

"Mrs. Robinson" became the duo's second chart-topper, hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and peaking within the top 10 of multiple other countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Spain, among others. In 1969, it became the first rock song to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. The song has been covered by a number of artists, including Frank Sinatra, the Lemonheads, and Bon Jovi. In 2004, it finished at #6 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.

Background[edit]

Simon & Garfunkel reached national fame in the United States in 1965–66, touring colleges and releasing a string of hit singles and albums. Meanwhile, director Mike Nichols, then filming The Graduate, became fascinated with the duo's past two efforts, listening to them nonstop before and after filming.[2][3] After two weeks of this obsession, he met with Columbia Records chairman Clive Davis to ask for permission to license Simon & Garfunkel music for his film. Davis viewed it as a perfect fit and envisioned a best-selling soundtrack album.[4] Paul Simon was not as immediately receptive, viewing movies akin to "selling out", but he agreed to write at least one or two new songs for the film after being impressed by Nichols' wit and the script.[4] Leonard Hirshan, a powerful agent at William Morris, negotiated a deal that paid Simon $25,000 to submit three songs to Nichols and producer Lawrence Turman.[5]

Several weeks later, Simon re-emerged with two new tracks, "Punky's Dilemma" and "Overs", neither of which Nichols was particularly taken with.[5] Nichols asked if the duo had any more songs to offer, and after a break from the meeting, they returned with an early version of "Mrs. Robinson". They had been working on a track titled "Mrs. Roosevelt", and returned to perform it for Nichols. He was ecstatic about the song, later commenting, "They filled in with dee de dee dee de dee dee dee because there was no verse yet, but I liked even that."[5] Art Garfunkel later expanded upon the song's placement in The Graduate:

Paul had been working on what is now 'Mrs. Robinson,' but there was no name in it and we’d just fill in with any three-syllable name. And because of the character in the picture we just began using the name 'Mrs. Robinson' to fit [...] and one day we were sitting around with Mike talking abut ideas for another song. And I said ‘What about Mrs. Robinson."' Mike shot to his feet. 'You have a song called "Mrs. Robinson" and you haven’t even shown it to me?' So we explained the working title and sang it for him. And then Mike froze it for the picture as 'Mrs. Robinson.'[6]

The final version of "Mrs. Robinson" was completed on February 2, 1968 at Columbia Studio A in New York City.[1]

Composition[edit]

The song contains a famous reference to baseball player Joe DiMaggio.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Simon's inclusion of the phrase "coo-coo-ca-choo" is an homage to the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus".[7]

References in the last verse to Joe DiMaggio are perhaps the most discussed. Paul Simon, a fan of Mickey Mantle, was asked during an intermission on The Dick Cavett Show why Mantle wasn't mentioned in the song instead of DiMaggio. Simon replied, "It's about syllables, Dick. It's about how many beats there are."[8] For himself, DiMaggio initially complained that he had not gone anywhere, but soon dropped his complaints after a cordial meeting with Paul Simon when he explained what the lines meant. In a New York Times op-ed in March 1999,[9] shortly after DiMaggio's death, Simon discussed this meeting and explained that the line was meant as a sincere tribute to DiMaggio's unpretentious heroic stature, in a time when popular culture magnifies and distorts how we perceive our heroes. He further reflected: "In these days of Presidential transgressions and apologies and prime-time interviews about private sexual matters, we grieve for Joe DiMaggio and mourn the loss of his grace and dignity, his fierce sense of privacy, his fidelity to the memory of his wife and the power of his silence." Simon subsequently performed "Mrs. Robinson" at Yankee Stadium in DiMaggio's honor the month after his death.[10]

Reception[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

"Mrs. Robinson" was awarded two Grammy Awards at the 11th Annual Grammy Awards in 1969. It became the first rock song to win Record of the Year, and it also was awarded the Grammy for Best Contemporary-Pop Performance - Vocal Duo or Group.[7]

The duo were asked to perform the song live at the ceremony, but they declined. Instead, they shot a video for the show set to the music that consisted of them "romping around Yankee Stadium," a reference to the song's lyrics concerning DiMaggio.[7]

"Mrs. Robinson" was ineligible for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, as a nominee must have been written exclusively for the film in which it appeared.[7]

In popular culture[edit]

The film Rumor Has It… is based on the assumption that The Graduate is based on real events which become uncovered. The song "Mrs. Robinson" is featured in this film as well.

In early January 2010, after news of Iris Robinson (wife of Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson) having an extramarital affair with the (40 years younger) adult child of a family friend became public, a group was set up on Facebook attempting to get the song "Mrs. Robinson" to No.1 in the Official UK Singles Chart for that week via download sales. It received coverage in The Telegraph and other British media.[11][12] It also received coverage in gay-related publications because of the anti-gay stand of Peter Robinson.[13]

Chart positions[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1968) Peak
position
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[14] 5
Ireland (IRMA)[15] 5
Norway (VG-lista)[16] 8
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[17] 7
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[18] 6
US Billboard Hot 100[19] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[20] 4
Preceded by
"Tighten Up" by Archie Bell & the Drells
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
June 1, 1968 – June 15, 1968
Succeeded by
"This Guy's in Love with You" by Herb Alpert

Cover versions[edit]

Sinatra's changing the lyrics
  • One of the earliest well-known cover versions of this song was by Frank Sinatra for his 1969 album My Way. This version changes a number of lines, including replacing "Jesus" with "Jilly" and including a new verse directly referring to Mrs. Robinson's activities in The Graduate. Writing in The complete guide to the music of Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel, Chris Charlesworth writes that Sinatra's word-change was "senseless", motivated by the refusal of some radio stations to play the song because of the word "Jesus".[21]
New songs about the character Mrs. Robinson
  • The folk punk band Andrew Jackson Jihad based their song "People II: The Reckoning" on the song. Its final verse repeats the line "Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson" but asserts that no one cares rather than the original sentiment that Jesus loves her.[22]
  • Dutch band The Nits wrote a continuation of the romance between Mrs. Robinson and Benjamin, with new lyrics and music. Simon considered refusing to let the band re-use a few lines of his song, forcing them to delay release of the CD to record a version that used none of Simon's lyrics.[23] The song, "Robinson", appeared on their 1998 album Alankomaat and was released as a single in the Netherlands. The live version contains lyric snippets from many other Simon and Garfunkel songs including opening with the line from "Sounds of Silence": "Hello darkness, my old friend."[24]
  • George Watsky & Kush Mody based their song on a love of "older women" with Mrs. Robinson being the focus of the song.[25]
Covers in different musical styles
  • The James Taylor Quartet released an instrumental version in a jazz funk style on their premiere album Mission Impossible, which consisted largely of covers of '60s film music.[22]
  • American soul singer Billy Paul did a rhythm and blues version in the 1970s.[22]
  • American glam metal band Kik Tracee has a cover version on their 1991 album No Rules.[26]
  • The Lemonheads recorded a punk-inflected cover version of this song that made #19 in December 1992. Although not originally included on The Lemonheads' album It's A Shame About Ray, the album was re-released with the cover of "Mrs. Robinson" included after the single's chart success.[27] Their version was also featured at the end of the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street.
  • Stadium rockers Bon Jovi recorded the song on one of their live performances. The song was included on the limited edition bonus disc of their 1995 These Days album.[22]
  • Booker T & The MG's recorded an instrumental version in 1969 which first appeared on their album The Booker T. Set.
Foreign language covers
  • In 1968 Francesco Guccini translated "Mrs. Robinson" into Italian; it was first covered in this version by the Italian beat group Royals and later was recorded by Bobby Solo on his LP Bobby Folk in 1970.[28]
  • In 1970 the Finnish rock star brothers Kirka Babitzin and Sammy Babitzin dueted a cover very similar to the original. The wording however was about worried Mrs. Robinson waiting her daughter home from a late date with someone - sounds like he's the singer.[29]


Personnel[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Fornatale 2007, p. 80.
  2. ^ Eliot 2007, p. 88.
  3. ^ Bart, Peter (May 15, 2005). "The perfect pic alignment". Variety. 
  4. ^ a b Eliot 2007, p. 89.
  5. ^ a b c Eliot 2007, p. 90.
  6. ^ Eliot 2007, p. 91.
  7. ^ a b c d Eliot 2007, p. 96.
  8. ^ "The Paul Simon Anthology – Article". Home.c2i.net. November 27, 1998. Retrieved February 18, 2011. 
  9. ^ "The Silent Superstar". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ Boudreau, Josh (May 15, 2005). "Marilyn Monroe's life story". Variety. 
  11. ^ Hough, Andrew (January 13, 2010). "Iris Robinson: Facebook campaign to get 'Mrs Robinson' song to no 1 on pop charts". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  12. ^ http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/facebook-campaign-aims-to-make-mrs-robinson-number-one-14631992.html[dead link]
  13. ^ Geen, Jessica. "Campaign to make Mrs Robinson number one". Pink News. Retrieved February 18, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Simon & Garfunkel search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  15. ^ "Chart Track: Week 32, 1968". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  16. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Simon & Garfunkel – Mrs. Robinson". VG-lista. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  17. ^ "Spanishcharts.com – Simon & Garfunkel – Mrs. Robinson" Canciones Top 50. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  18. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Simon & Garfunkel – Mrs. Robinson". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  19. ^ "Simon & Garfunkel Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for Simon & Garfunkel. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  20. ^ "Archive Chart: 1968-08-10" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  21. ^ Charlesworth, Chris (1997). The complete guide to the music of Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel. Omnibus Press. p. 136. ISBN 9780711955974. 
  22. ^ a b c d Eliot, Marc (2010). Paul Simon: A Life. John Wiley and Sons: Omnibus Press. p. 336. ISBN 9780470433638. 
  23. ^ "Nits in the Papers". Nitsfans.org. Retrieved February 18, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Lyrics for Alankomaat". Nitsfans.org. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  25. ^ "Mrs. Robinson ft. Danny McClain". Gwatsky.bandcamp.com. 2012-02-01. Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  26. ^ The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music: Farian, Frank to Mezza, Don. 1992. p. 3295. 
  27. ^ Blackwell, Mark. "Just Like Evan". SPIN (SPIN Media LLC) (April 1993). 
  28. ^ Rizzi, Cesare; Fulvio Beretta (1993). Enciclopedia del rock italiano. Arcana, 1993. p. 640. 
  29. ^ http://www.aanitearkisto.fi/firs2/en/haku.php
  30. ^ "Mrs Robinson Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved February 18, 2011. 

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]