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The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)

Simon & Garfunkel could write and perform the most melancholy songs on the planet, but they also happen to be responsible for what is perhaps the most genuinely happy pop/rock song around.

What makes this particular cheerful song so real to me is the way it describes one specific moment of joy. It’s a joy in life’s small pleasures, and a kind of joy that’s not flashy, that someone else might not even notice. It is not the type of “happiness” that’s designed to make someone else feel bad for not “having” it. It’s the kind of genuine happiness that Pascal Bruckner describes—it arises spontaneously out of a simple moment.

Paul Simon is a superb songwriter for the very reason that he never shies from specificity. He has written beautifully in many moods, all of which are fully inhabited in his songs.

I’m sharing “Feelin’ Groovy” today for a couple of reasons: 1) it’s raining steadily and so the song will warm me up a bit, and 2) we just bought tickets to see Paul Simon in concert in December. I have a long, long history with Simon & Garfunkel but have never seen either of them perform, so this makes this morning extra groovy for me. But if you are more in the mood to let the rain (or snow) settle into your soul today, here’s an alternative, “Kathy’s Song.” Both are true.

2 responses »

  1. I like the dialectic move of including two Simon and Garfunkel tunes.

    I have banished S&G twice from my music collection, only to summon them back. For me, there is something too genteel about their liberalism or bohemianism or their sound in general, and I need something louder and harsher to jolt me through the triage of my days (Tom Waits, AC/DC, anything with Jack White, Sinatra, or Chucho Valdez). Oddly, “Kathy’s Song” sounds happier than the joyful songs of most of the above regulars on my iPod. But even for me, in the manic hustle I’ve had to undertake this last decade, S&G transcend their gentility, and their funky empathy, their sense of drama, their goofy surrealism, and their harmony, when there was harmony, is infectious (especially on Bookends), if one can only lend them one’s ears for an hour or so.

    Paul Simon’s most joyous song, to my thinking, is “The Obvious Child,” with its booming Brazilian drum core and its cathartic anger and free associations and its amazing sonic journey. I hope he plays that in December, so that you can tell me what that sounds like live.

    But the harmonies with Art are the most beautiful.

    • I found your characterization on target, and I was fascinated by your on-again, off-again attention to S&G. (I think my attention to music in general is unfortunately on-again, off-again, thus I can miss whole periods of time.) I did laugh that you named Sinatra as being harsher. But I do also love the harsh stuff, and have attracted dates in the past based merely on the fact that I like a lot of my music on the raw side! Bruce has a musical background, and he’s very fond of refined music, whereas I’m always looking for those who can belt it out. It is true that those violins in “Bridge Over Troubled Water” can be too much sometimes.

      For me, though, S&G is a symbol of my childhood and certain friendships I had, as well as all the melancholy of adolescence. They are akin to the food I was raised on, or the smell of East Tennessee pine that permeated the air. Not really a choice at all, just a constant presence. Of course, I guess I had some choice when I was ten, twelve, and sixteen, but I don’t remember choosing. They’re pretty much in my cells, for better or worse.

      On Monday, I’ll share what I hope to be an antidote to gentility!


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