Paul Simon Ellen Sander - Essay

Ellen Sander

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Bridge Over Troubled Water] is a model of consistency and professionalism. The title song, opening the album, is both sad and mighty, disturbing and comforting in one tonal exercise…. As the shape of the album begins to take form, it becomes a song for children, for the child in all of us. It ceases to be music bound by generational conceit and loses nothing in the process.

"Keep the Customer Satisfied" is one of those Paul Simon novelettes that eludes and delights with bits and pieces of image, feeling, character, and sequence. Sad, lonely, and unaccepting, "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" closes the side on a note of reflection….

It's a retrospective, almost amusing view of the artists as song stylists, growing, changing, marking off the passage of time in tune. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel are the architects of songs, building rather than blurting, shaping, defining, and contouring their pieces so the listener can live in them for a while…. (p. 91)

It was Simon and Garfunkel who spanned the musical bridge between the [Everly Brothers] and the Byrds, opening the door to the folk rock that spawned contemporary rock at its most righteous. Here they've brought it back together again, right next to their most current creations, intact, whole, forever new, and young. It's a delight, but there's little surprise that it works perfectly.

A lonely, bewildered, and sad coda, "A Song for the Asking," closes Bridge Over Troubled Water with thoughtfulness and a very intimate pang. Paul Simon always seems to counterpoint his music with wistfulness, a curious persistence on the part of so successful and prolific a writer….

Simon and Garfunkel have taken the poetry and given it back to the lyrics. They have created songs, not opera, the text of which is lyric, not poem. They're printed on the back of the album jacket for any pedant who wants to read, analyze, compare, or expostulate. But, no matter. In twenty years, singers will be singing them. (p. 98)

Ellen Sander, "Simon & Garfunkel: The Singers and the Songs," in Saturday Review (copyright © 1970 by Saturday Review; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Vol. LIII, No. 9, February 28, 1970, pp. 91, 98.