Few musical acts are so ubiquitous with the idea of songwriting duos as Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. The 2 men met in Elementary school in Queens New York in 1953 where they learned the basics of music side by side. Over the course of their storied career, the folk-rock duo produced a series of number 1 hits including “Mrs. Robinson” and “The Sound of Silence” as well as 5 studio albums, but today they are often remembered as much for their union as their breakup. Nobody but Simon and Garfunkel themselves can really understand the circumstances behind their split, but it was enough that, despite attempting to reconcile and come together again several times, the 2 never stayed on good terms long enough to make more than 1 song. By 1970 this rift was starting to form, but the 2 were able to overcome their differences for 1 last album, an album which would become the highest selling record of 1970, 1971, AND 1972. In fact, until Michael Jackson released Thriller, this album would stand as the highest selling record of all time. That album, of course, is today’s addition to the Musical Training Plan, Bridge Over Troubled Water.
Bridge Over Troubled Water is a great album, plain and simple. Honestly, it’s downright triumphant. Its finest track, the opener and title track “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is positively moving as it captures the contention between the 2 artists in a simple, progressing, beautiful composition. That song alone makes this album worth the price of admission, but cover to cover it continues to deliver. “Cecilia” is more upbeat and fun, easy to sing along to and memorable. “El Condor Pasa” is extremely interesting and enjoyable, making heavy use of woodwinds and lyrics more poetry than storytelling. Simon and Garfunkel never really stray too far from their signature brand of folk-rock that made them 2 of the biggest musicians on Earth, but what they lack in boundary pushing they make-up for it with a mastery and perfection of their style. Hardly a note feels misplaced, the vocal harmonies are clean, precise, and just sound great, and the instrumentation always fits the lyrics and themes like a glove. The real triumph of this album, though, is found not in the music, but in Simon and Garfunkel themselves. While we now know that the 2 were growing apart at this time, it would seem that they used up all of their remaining friendship on this music, because wow. Not only is the music all good, it shines in ways that could only be achieved through the phenomenal chemistry of 2 musicians. Nobody knew it at the time, but this was the swansong not of a career, but of a friendship. And what a beautiful swansong it is.
Not likely to be appreciated appropriately by more recent generations of music fans, Bridge Over Troubled Water is a real tour-de-force of 2 of the biggest musicians of the mid 20th century and stands as a testament to the power of music. It also stands as proof of what 2 people are able to accomplish when they come together, and while I wish they could have stayed on good terms and given us more of the same, I can hardly complain when Simon and Garfunkel at least gave us this incredible album before breaking it off. This record is wonderful, beautiful, and, clocking in at 37 minutes long, it is an easy listen which is beyond worthy of gracing your speakers today.
I’m not gonna promise you that you’ll love this album, but I will stand firm in saying that most everybody should listen to it at least once. That being said, I hope you enjoy Simon and Garfunkel’s final album, Bridge Over Troubled Water.
I wonder where this theme will take us next, but I can virtually guarantee that it’ll come in 2s.