Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)

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By Matt Reynolds

With the landmark announcement on Wednesday that Simon and Garfunkel will be taking the stage at this years’ New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, it finalizes what may be one of the best lineups in the event’s history.

Also manning the two weekend jubilee in the Crescent City are stellar acts such as Allman Brothers Band, Dr. John, Levon Helm, My Morning Jacket, George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, Pearl Jam, Marcia Ball, Terence Blanchard, Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Beth Patterson, Widespread Panic, The Neville Brothers, B.B. King, Irma Thomas, Elvis Costello & the Sugarcanes, Allen Toussaint and Jeff Beck, among many, many others.

While the previous artists’ mentioned could certainly be considered top-shelf taste, the fact that both Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel will grace an American stage for the only time in 2010 in the city of Simon’s “dreams” is surely something to sing about.

The announcement got me digging through the vinyl collection to get reintroduced to the unmatched harmony created when Art and Paul combined their talents. Although Simon’s staggering solo success has his music recognizable all over the globe, there is undeniably a different sort of magic when Garfunkel’s hypnotic, soothing sound accompanies Simon’s salient writing style and innovative voice.

In their fifth and final studio album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, the now legendary duo put their stamp on music history with one of the most profound records of a generation.

This blend of rangy melodies and harmonies stopped me in my tracks when I first heard it as a young doe-eyed teenager. And even now, when I drop the needle on the wax, that crackling sonance takes me to a better place.

Although covered by possibly half of the working artists in the 70s, the title track’s amazing wall of sound and dramatic message still has the goose bump-effect, because well frankly, we’ve all been down and out and needed a helping hand.

“Cecilia” also leaves the listener with a happy ending, as the upbeat tune gives the ever-so-common story of two lover’s breakup before reuniting and feeling so good.

The diamond of the album is “The Boxer” – Simon’s counter punch to the snide New York City music critics who weren’t treating them very kind. (“In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade, and he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him. ‘Til he cried out in his anger and his shame. I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains.”) There are reports that this particular tune took nearly 100 hours to record to get the product that you hear on the album.

This song about life, the struggles, the sadness and the resiliency of human spirit possibly reached its most epic moment when Simon played it on Saturday Night Live four days after the events of September 11 with a collection of NYC public servicemen standing in the backdrop.

Recently a new generation of Simon and Garfunkel fans was hatched when Scrubs actor Zach Braff used S&G’s “Only Living Boy in New York” in his directorial film debut, “Garden State.”

Toward the ending of the movie, after the main character (played by Graff) of the film finally finds peace after years of darkness, he stands on top of a rusted abandoned bus looking over a deep wooded New Jersey ravine with his hands raised. The background music said it all: “Half of the time we’re gone, but we don’t know where. And we don’t know where.”

The “Garden State” soundtrack earned a Grammy Award for best compilation soundtrack for a motion picture in 2004. Bridge Over Troubled Water won numerous Grammys in 1971, as well.

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