Bridge over Troubled Water (song)

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"Bridge Over Troubled Water"
Bridge Over Troubled Water single.jpg
Single by Simon & Garfunkel
from the album Bridge Over Troubled Water
B-side "Keep the Customer Satisfied"
Released January 1970 (1970-01)
Format 7"
Recorded November 9, 1969
Length 4:55
Label Columbia
Songwriter(s) Paul Simon
Simon & Garfunkel singles chronology
"The Boxer"
"Bridge Over Troubled Water"
"The Boxer"
"Bridge Over Troubled Water"
Bridge over Troubled Water track listing
"Bridge over Troubled Water"
"El Condor Pasa (If I Could)"
Music video
"Bridge over Troubled Water" (audio) on YouTube
Audio sample

"Bridge over Troubled Water" is a song by American music duo Simon & Garfunkel. Produced by the duo and Roy Halee, the song was released as the follow-up single to "The Boxer" in January 1970. The song is featured on their fifth studio album, Bridge over Troubled Water (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 using L.A. session musicians from the Wrecking Crew.[1][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, eventually selling over six million copies worldwide, making it among the best-selling singles. 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.


"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 Garfunkel 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 toward 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 drug abuser's hypodermic needle, as is sometimes claimed.[13] The verse was Garfunkel's idea, and Simon has never cared for it.[14]

"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.[15] 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 by Hal Blaine in an echo chamber to achieve a hall effect and Los Angeles session percussionist Gary Coleman played the vibraphone. 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.[16]

Simon and Garfunkel then returned to New York to record the vocals.[17][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.[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]

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.[20] 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 US for six weeks.[21] Billboard ranked it as the No. 1 song for 1970.[22]

The song was certified gold for over one million copies in the US by the Recording Industry Association of America,[23] and the song has sold over six million copies worldwide, making it among the best-selling singles.[24][25]


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.

Chart performance[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]


The song has been covered by over 50 artists,[45] including Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson. A cover recorded by Johnny Cash and Fiona Apple for Cash's American IV: The Man Comes Around album was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2003.[46]

Aretha Franklin[edit]

Aretha Franklin's gospel-inspired studio-recorded cover version released in March 1971 reached number one on the US R&B chart and number six on the pop chart,[47] 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.[48]

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,[49] 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."[50] 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]

"Bridge over Troubled Water"
Single by Linda Clifford
from the album Let Me Be Your Woman
B-side "Hold Me Close"
Released 1979
Format 7" single
Genre Disco
Length 4:08 (7" version)
10:20 (Album version)
Label RSO/Curtom
Songwriter(s) Paul Simon
Producer(s) Gil Askey

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.[51]

Cantonese version[edit]

A rewriting of the song with Cantonese lyrics ("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 funds after the Eastern China flood of 1991. In 2009 it was also used in the Artistes 88 Fund Raising Campaign for the victims of Typhoon Morakot.[52]

Dami Im version[edit]

Dami Im covered this song during the Family Heroes-themed sixth live show of the fifth season of Australian X Factor on September 29, 2013.[53] Im's performance of the song debuted at number 15 on the Australian Singles Chart. Im later released a version of the song on her self-titled album,[54] which debuted at number 1 in Australia, and was certified Platinum.[55]

Artists for Grenfell Tower charity single[edit]

"Bridge over Troubled Water"
Grenfell Single.jpg
Single by Artists for Grenfell
Released June 21, 2017
Recorded June 2017
Genre Pop
Length 3:53
Label Syco
Songwriter(s) Paul Simon

To raise money for the families of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 and for The London Community Foundation, Simon Cowell arranged the recording and release of a charity single on June 21, 2017.[56] It reached number one on the UK Singles Chart on June 23, 2017.[57]


The song is performed by the following artists:[56]




Chart (2017) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[58] 53
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[59] 32
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[60] 26
Finland Download (Latauslista)[61] 23
France (SNEP)[62] 111
Hungary (Single Top 40)[63] 31
Ireland (IRMA)[64] 25
New Zealand Heatseekers (RMNZ)[65] 4
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[66] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[67] 28
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[57] 1

Other notable covers[edit]



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  53. ^ Hardie, Giles (29 September 2013). "Minogue reduced to tears on X Factor". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 5 October 2016. 
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External links[edit]

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)

22 March – 11 April 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
Preceded by
"Despacito" by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber
UK Singles Chart number-one single
(Artists for Grenfell version)

23 – 29 June 2017 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Despacito" by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber