Bridge Over Troubles Water was issued Feb. 14, 1970 and was as close to pop perfection as any album ever released. It would spend ten weeks on top of the national charts and sell 13 million copies. It would go on to win six Grammy Awards.
The 1960s had ended with the alienation of American youth. The Vietnam War, which was killing hundreds of young people each week, being chronicled on television. The draft lottery, the Manson family, the violence at Altamont, and the election of Richard Nixon all combined to move society far from the ideals of peace and love. It was against this background that the beauty of Bridge Over Troubled Water burst upon the music scene and in some way provided hope or at least a means of escape.
The title song is graceful, poetic, and inspirational. Art Garfunkel’s vocal soars above the mix and brings the lyrics to life. Garfunkel called singing this song in Madison Square Garden a spiritual experience. “Bridge Over Trouble Water” would be released as a single and top the charts for six weeks. It remains as one of the signature pop performances in music history.
“The Boxer” is a wonderfully reflective song about loss and struggle but with a dignity and perseverance. “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)” is a gentle song filled with obscure lyrics, yet they create a calm mood.
“Keep The Customer Satisfied” is about as rockish as Simon & Garfunkel would get. The brass background is reminiscent of the Blood, Sweat & Tears sound of the era. Hidden inside of this sound is a creative tale as told by Paul Simon. “Baby Driver” is another up-tempo production with words that draw you in but do not let you interpret them easily.
Simon & Garfunkel based their vocal style and harmonies upon that of The Everly Brothers. “Bye Bye Love” is a tribute to that duo. They provide a modernized version of this old hit and it is doubtful if anyone could have done it better. Some of the best harmonies of their career appear on this song.
This would be Simon & Garfunkel’s last studio album together. They would reunite for live performances and a few songs, and recently have toured together but would mostly travel different career paths.
Bridge Over Troubled Water is legitimately recognized as a landmark album. It is a series of songs that provide comfort and ultimately restore faith. It is not often you can receive this type of experience from a music album.