Bridge over Troubled Water – a potted history

The song started as a modest Gospel hymn but became more dramatic as Paul Simon put it together. Speaking in the documentary The Making of Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon said, “I have no idea where it came from. It came all of the sudden. It was one of the most shocking moments in my songwriting career. I remember thinking, ‘This is considerably better than I usually write.”

At first, Simon thought the opening lyrics were too simple: “When you’re weary, feeling small. When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all.” He later realized that it was this simplicity that helped give the song a universal appeal.

Simon wrote this song with just two verses, considering the song “a little hymn.” Garfunkel and producer Roy Halee heard it as more epic, and convinced him to write a third verse, which Paul did in the studio (the “Sail on, Silvergirl part”). This was very unusual for Simon, as he usually took a long time writing his lyrics. Simon’s “little hymn” got a grand production, and after hearing it, Paul thought it was too long, too slow and too orchestral to be a hit. Clive Davis at Columbia Records is the one who heard the commercial appeal of the song, and insisted they market it like crazy and use it as the album title. This was one of the few songs to top the US and UK charts at the same time. It was #1 in the US for 6 weeks, #1 in the UK for 3.

There have been many cover versions since by artists like Aretha Franklin, Elvis and now S!BH but for now, sit back and enjoy these great versions of this 1970 classic.

 

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