Saturday, February 28, 1970

Simon & Garfunkel hit #1 with “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Simon & Garfunkel

Writer(s): Paul Simon (see lyrics here)

Released: January 26, 1970

First Charted: January 31, 1970

Peak: 16 US, 14 CB, 14 GR, 13 HR, 16 AC, 1 CL, 13 UK, 14 CN, 2 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.6 UK, 6.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 7.0 radio, 97.4 video, 270.98 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

In the 1958 song “Mary Don’t You Weep” Reverend Claude Jeter wrote the lyric “I’ll be your bridge over deep water if you trust in me.” WK Paul Simon said, “Had it not been for him I would never have written ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’…The guy has probably the best falsetto voice in the world.” HL

In “Bridge” “a narrator (who could be God, a parent, a lover, or a friend) pledges to help someone in adversity, to be ‘like a bridge over troubled water.’” AMG It became “one of the great statements about modern relationships” TC including Simon’s “relationship with his wife, with his audience and with music.” TC The line “sail on, silver girl” was a reassurance to her after she discovered her first grey hairs. HL

Simon originally wrote the song on guitar TB with the working title “Hymn” and tried to sing it in falsetto, before deciding Art Garfunkel’s pure tenor voice was better suited to the song. AMG Simon then also changed the instrumental accompaniment to piano because it better fit the gospel feel of Garfunkel’s vocals. RC

Garfunkel disputed Simon’s contention that it was the best song he’d ever written AMG and thought Simon should sing it. As Simon said in 1972, “Many times I think I’m sorry I didn’t do it.” RS500 “In the earlier days when things were smoother I never would have thought that, but towards the end when things were strained I did. It’s not a very generous thing to think, but I did think that.” FB

The duo disagreed with Clive Davis, then CBS Records president, over releasing the ballad as the album’s lead single. Simon said, “I didn’t think it was a hit, because I didn’t thnk they’d play a five-minute song on the radio.” TC In the end, Davis won out AMG and the result was the top pop single of the year. AMG

The song became an instant favorite to cover. It was current, but not really a rock and roll song, which gave it broad appeal. The R&B community seized on the song’s gospel feel while the country world latched on to the religious implications of the song. By the close of the year, 24 charted albums had featured the song. Since 1970, it has been recorded by hundreds of artists. AMG Music historian Steve Sullivan called it “a recording of such astonishing beauty that it has few equals in pop music history.” SS


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First posted 2/26/2012; last updated 5/1/2024.

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