Bridge Over Troubled Water

Happy Birthday, Paul Simon

Paul Simon was born on this day in 1941, so today, 13 October 2021, he is 80 years old.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all;
I’m on your side. When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

When you’re down and out,
When you’re on the street,
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you.
I’ll take your part.
When darkness comes
And pain is all around,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

Sail on silver girl,
Sail on by.
Your time has come to shine.
All your dreams are on their way.
See how they shine.
If you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.

This song is from Simon & Garfunkel’s fifth studio album, Bridge over Troubled Water (1970), the last they released before splitting up.
Often considered their signature song, it became their biggest hit single and one of the most performed songs, with over 50 artists, like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Aretha Franklin, covering it. Paul McCartney was so impressed when he first heard it that he decided to write a “spiritual” of his own: “Let It Be”.

Paul Simon composed it very quickly: started as a modest Gospel hymn, it became more and more dramatic as he was putting it together. 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.”
The chorus lyrics were partly inspired by the line “I’ll be your bridge over deep water if you trust in me” sung in the 1958 spiritual “Mary Don’t You Weep.
At first, Simon wrote the song on the guitar, then he decided to transpose it to the piano, to better reflect the gospel influence and to suit Garfunkel’s voice, for whom he said he had written it. Yet, after listening to it, Garfunkel said he didn’t don’t want to sing it, and years later, he explained that it was because he thought it would sound good in Simon’s voice.

In the beginning the song consisted of just two verses, like “a little hymn”, but Garfunkel and their producer insisted that a third verse be added, which Paul did in the studio (the “Sail on, silver girl” part).
This line is sometimes reputed to refer to a needle (meaning the song might be about heroin) but it actually refers to Simon’s girlfriend (and later wife) Peggy Harper who found a few gray hairs and was upset. The lyric was meant as a joke – Simon calling her “Silver Girl” because of her hair.

The song is about friendship and togetherness, about providing comfort to a person in need, who is going through bad times. The image of laying oneself down as a bridge to help a friend is really powerful. Anyway, this song came to mark the end of a friendship that had endured since the Sixth Grade.

(Wikimedia Commons -Gionaelabalena) Paul Simon live in Arena Civica, Milan, 2008

Questa canzone è tratta dal quinto album di Simon & Garfunkel, Bridge over Troubled Water (1970), l’ultimo pubblicato prima del loro scioglimento.
Spesso considerata il loro cavallo di battaglia , è diventata il loro singolo di maggior successo e una delle canzoni più eseguite con oltre 50 artisti, come Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash e Aretha Franklin, che la propongono. Paul McCartney rimase così colpito quando la sentì per la prima volta che decise di scrivere un suo spiritual , cioè “Let It Be”.

Paul Simon la compose molto velocemente, cominciandola come un modesto inno e rendendola via via più complessa, . In un documentario Simon ha dichiarato: “Non ho idea da dove provenga. È arrivata all’improvviso. È stato uno dei momenti più scioccanti della mia carriera di compositore. Ricordo di aver pensato: ‘Questo è molto meglio di ciò che scrivo di solito.”
I versi del ritornello furono in parte ispirati dalle parole ” Sarò il tuo ponte sull’acqua profonda se avrai fiducia in me ” cantata nello spiritual del 1958 “Mary Don’t You Weep”.
Inizialmente, Simon scrisse la canzone alla chitarra, poi decise di trasporla al pianoforte, sia per riflettere meglio l’aspetto gospel che per adattarsi alla voce di Garfunkel, per cui disse di averla composta. Tuttavia, dopo averla ascoltata, Garfunkel disse che non voleva cantarla, e anni dopo, ne spiegò il motivo: pensava che sarebbe stata perfetta con la voce di Simon.

All’inizio la canzone consisteva solo di due strofe, come un piccolo inno, ma Garfunkel e il loro produttore insistettero affinché fosse aggiunto una terza parte, cosa che Paul fece subito (la parte che comincia con “Dispiega le vele ragazza d’argento “).
A volte si dice che queste parole facciano riferimento a un ago (il che significa che la canzone potrebbe parlare di eroina) ma in realtà si riferisce alla ragazza di Simon (che in seguito divenne moglie) Peggy Harper che aveva scoperto alcuni capelli “d’argento” ed era sconvolta, per cui Simon la chiamava teneramente “ragazza d’argento“.

La canzone parla di amicizia e solidarietà, dell’importanza di saper offrire conforto a una persona in difficoltà. L’immagine di stendersi come un ponte per aiutare un amico è davvero poderosa. Ad ogni modo, questa canzone segnò la fine di un’amicizia che durava fin dalla prima media.

Quando sei stanca e ti senti piccola
quando hai le lacrime agli occhi io le asciugherò tutte.
Sono dalla tua parte. Quando i tempi diventano difficili
e non si riescono a trovare amici
come un ponte sull’acqua burrascosa
io mi stenderò
Come un ponte sull’acqua burrascosa
io mi stenderò

Quando sei giù di corda
quando sei sulla strada
quando la sera cala spietata
io ti darò conforto,
sarò dalla tua parte
Quando arrivano le tenebre
e il dolore è tutt’intorno
come un ponte sull’acqua burrascosa
io mi stenderò
Come un ponte sull’acqua burrascosa
io mi stenderò

Dispiega le vele ragazza d’argento
dispiega le vele
Per te è arrivato il momento di risplendere
Tutti i tuoi sogni si stanno avverando
Guarda come risplendono
Se hai bisogno di un amico
io sto navigando proprio dietro a te
Come un ponte sull’acqua burrascosa
ti calmerò la mente
Come un ponte sull’acqua burrascosa
ti calmerò la mente
(trad: L.Z.)

71 thoughts on “Bridge Over Troubled Water

    1. Thank you very much for the link. I found the article interesting
      As you know, the songs of a certain depth contain various layers, different references so why not believe that even that window, that room were part of his inspiration? 🎶🎶🎶

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Once again I feel such gratitude to you, dear Luisa. You give so much through
    your posts, so much of beauty and facts.
    Along with so many in the world I knew the song but not the story and beginning of hw it came to be.
    It is interesting how close they were to gospel music, didn’t know. It also makes me shiver
    when he realises that the song is above what he has written, almost as another hand wrote.

    Well,I am going to listen again now and let it fill my heart.
    Happy Birthday, Simon.

    Miriam

    Liked by 3 people

  2. When they decide what is the greatest ever modern song this (Bridge Over Troubled Water) will be in the frame. Brilliant music and lyrics from Paul Simon and exquisitely sung by Art Garfunkel. A gospel like song of love and devotion. Paul Simon 80 today. Great blog, Luisa.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ricordo che fu il primo LP che comprai in vita mia! Ascoltato così tante volte che mia madre che mi diceva BASTA!!! Benché sotto sotto l’appezzasse!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. , “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. ”
    If that isn’t likely to be a great example of channelled work I don’t know what is!

    Liked by 1 person

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