The 1970s kick off with one of the most successful duos of the 1960s, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Despite growing differences and conflict between the two that ultimately led to their dissolution as an act not long after this album was released, they recorded and released what I and most others consider to be their greatest album. Highly successful, the album “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was the #1 selling album of 1970, and is rated #172 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, which feels a bit low to me.
The album opens with the powerful title track, a soulful ballad written by Paul Simon, like most of their songs, but sung primarily by Art Garfunkel. Paul originally had to convince Art they had a hit on their hands, but it took some time for Art to come around. Paul continued to harbor some resentment even as the song hit big, concerned his contribution to the number was not fully appreciated. Despite the pettiness and hard feelings that ultimately soured their working relationship, they did create a beautiful song here. At the urging of their produced, Paul wrote a third verse that they sing together, and it adds significantly to the overall impact of the song. The album continues on with “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)”, a beautiful Peruvian classical piece remade in their two-part harmony. It is a really lush and powerful piece also, and the strength of the album continues to shine with the more pop-sounding “Cecilia”.
Side two opens with another home run Paul Simon song, “The Boxer”. I will always vividly recall when Paul performed this song solo on Saturday Night Live, in their first show following 9/11, a somber and deeply emotional scene as he performed to a stage full of New York firefighters, police officers and other first responders. It was the perfect song of resilience for that moment, and has always stuck with me as such. There really isn’t a weak song on this album, songs like “Keep the Customer Satisfied”, “Baby Driver” and “The Only Living Boy in New York” all display the wide range and continued growth of Paul Simon as a songwriter.
As if to keep the mood light during the dark tension, the album also includes a live cover version of the Everly Brothers hit, “Bye Bye Love”. The similarities in harmony between the two acts are obvious, and they surely had a lifetime career as an Everly Brothers tribute act if they didn’t have such gifts with their own music.
As a fan, we can all get selfish and ask why acts like these couldn’t work it out better, but in the end, like all, I’m grateful for the five albums of remarkable songs that have had a notable impact on my music life, and I certainly respect where both of them evolved to professionally after they disbanded. They will always be one of the most recognized and influential acts of the dynamic decade that was the 1960s.