I've always been fascinated into what motivates songwriters to write songs and what they have to say about them. I have looked through various books and interviews to see what Paul and Art have to say about their songs, how they were written and why.
The songs are in alphabetical order so just scroll down to find the one you are interested in
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)
Paul - 'I knew that record was a hit as soon as I wrote it.'
Paul - 'I came back from England to the United States in December of 1965. The
Sounds of Silence had become a big hit and when I returned I had to make this
transition from being relatively unknown in England to a sort of semi-famous
I didn't adjust well. It was always slightly embarrassing to me, teeny-bops
So I used to think all my sweets are gone, good times gone, left over in England. All the songs I was writing were very down type of songs, nothing happy. Until about last June, for some reason last June I started to come out of it, I started to get into a good mood, I don't know why. One day I was riding along in my Aston Martin and I said to myself.... no I really don't have an Aston Martin, in fact I don't have a car at all. I was the type of kid when I was in Paris, we'd sit on the side of the Seine, in Paris, and when the tourist boats go by, you know? I would yell out "Capitalist pig!".
So here I am getting into this pleasant frame of mind and I was coming home one morning, about six o'clock in the morning and coming over the 59th Street bridge in New York and what a groovy day it was, a really good one, and one of those times when you know you're not really going to be tired for about an hour. So I started writing a song which later became the 59th Street Bridge song or Feelin' Groovy.' - Tufts 66
April Come She Will
Paul - 'When I was living in England, about three
years ago, four years ago, I worked in a club in a town
called Swindon. It's about 100 miles north of London. I spent
the night with a friend of mine in a smaller village called
Great Coxswell, not that it means anything, no pun intended.
We'd stayed up all night and talked and I said to her "Let's
go out in the morning and do it" (Laughs from audience)
You too huh?.
We went out at dawn and she recited an English nursery rhyme, it was a children's rhyme and it was about a cuckoo, a bird. It went "April come she will. May she will stay, June she'll change her tune. July she will fly. August die she must."' - Hollywood Bowl 1968
Art - 'I've been at University now for about seven years. I'm in the graduate school there now but when I was an undergraduate I took quite a few music courses, one of which got me very involved in 16th century music. And I researched, one week in the library, a two-part setting of a benedictus from the church mass, originally done by Orlando de Lasso and brought it for the two of us to do. We rewrote the two parts and added guitar chords to it and put it into our first album for Columbia. This is our version of Benedictus - Tuft's Uni 1966
Art - 'This is a four hundred year old piece of church music which is a favourite of ours. It's a two-part setting of a benedictus that comes from the church mass, originally set by an Italian named Orlando de Lasso but redone by us.' - Hollywood Bowl 1968
Art - I confess that Bleeker Street (finished in October 1963), was too much for me at first. The song is highly intellectual, the symbolism extremely challenging. The opening line in which the fog comes like a 'shroud' over the city introduces the theme of 'creative sterility.' But it is the second verse which I find particularly significant:' Voices leaking from a sad cafe Smiling faces try to understand I saw a shadow touch a shadow's hand On Bleecker Street.'
Paul - 'There is an area of London called Soho.
Soho is roughly equivalent to Greenwich Village in New York.
It has a lot of coffee houses, folk clubs, beat clubs and I
worked there often and I used to go and see friends who were
working there, so I was in and out of Soho very very often.
One day I got caught in a downpour and I stepped inside St Anne's Cathedral, which is on a little park in Soho, St Anne's Cathedral. I was impressed with the sermon that I heard being delivered. What impressed me was that it didn't say anything, nothing. When you walked out of there, it didn't make any difference whether you walked in, unless you dug stained glass windows you know. Because the meek are inheriting nothing, nothing and that's the basis of this song called Blessed. - Tuft's 1966
Paul - 'The Boxer' was a really nice record. I like to listen to that record I think I was reading the Bible around that time. That's where I think phrases such as 'workman's wages' came from, and 'seeking out the poorer quarters'. That was biblical. I think the song was about me: everybody's beating me up, and I'm telling you now I'm going to go away if you don't stop.
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Paul - 'We were in California. We
were all renting this house. Me and Artie and Peggy were
living in this house with a bunch of other people
throughout the summer. It was a house on Blue Jay Way,
the one George Harrison wrote "Blue Jay Way"
We had this Sony machine and Artie had the piano, and I'd finished working on a song, and we went into the studio. I had it written on guitar, so we had to transpose the song. I had it written in the key of G, and I think Artie sang it in E. E flat. We were with Larry Knechtel, and I said, "Here's a song; it's in G, but I want it in E flat. I want it to have a gospel piano."
So, first we had to transpose the chords, and there was an arranger who used to do some work with me, Jimmie Haskell, who, as a favor, he said, "I'll write the chords; you call off the chord in G, and I'll write it in E flat." And he did that. That was the extent of what he did. He later won a Grammy for that. We'd put his name down as one of the arrangers. Then it took us about four days to get the piano part. Each night we'd work on the piano part until Larry really honed it into a good part.
Now, the song was originally two verses, and in the studio, as Larry was playing it, we decided--I believe it was Artie's idea, I can't remember, but I think it was Artie's idea to add another verse, because Larry was sort of elongating the piano part, so I said, "Play the piano part for a third verse again, even though I don't have it, and I'll write it" which I eventually did after the fact. I always felt that you could clearly see that it was written afterwards. It just doesn't sound like the first two verses.
Then the piano part was finished. Then we added bass--two basses, one way up high, the high bass notes. Joe Osborn did that. Then we added vibes in the second verse just to make the thing ring a bit. Then we put the drum on, and we recorded the drum in an echo chamber, and we did it with a tape-reverb that made the drum part sound different from what it actually was, because of that afterbeat effect. Then we gave it out to have a string part written. This was all in L.A. And then we came back to New York and did the vocals. Artie spent several days on the vocals.
I think 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' was a very good song and I think Artie sang it beautifully. I think he did really a great, a very soulful job to come out of a white singer. He sang it white, but soulful, and that's very hard to hear today
No, I did say, "This is very special." I didn't think it was a hit, because I didn't think they'd play a five minute song on the radio. Actually, I just wrote it to be two verses done on the piano. But when we got into the studio, Artie and Roy Halee, who co-produced our records, wanted to add a third verse and drums to make it huge. Their tendency was to make things bigger and lusher and sweeter. Mine was to keep things more raw. And that mixture, I think, is what produced a lot of the hits. It probably would have been a hit with two verses on the piano, but it wouldn't have been the monster hit that it became. I think a lot of what people were responding to was that soaring melody at the end
Funny, I'm reminded of the last verse. It was about Peggy, whom I was living with at the time: "Sail on, silver girl ... / Your time has come to shine" was half a joke, because she was upset one day when she had found two or three gray hairs on her head.
Playboy- How do you feel about the song today?
Paul- Totally detached. I don't feel that Bridge Over Troubled Water even belongs to me. When I think about it now, I think first of an elevator. it makes me laugh - it's nice to have any song that you write played in an elevator. It's not as good a feeling, though, as walking down the street and hearing somebody sing a song of yours. That, I think, is the best feeling for a songwriter.
Paul also gave another interview in which he explained how he wrote Bridge Over Troubled Water. It started with an opening section, followed by a piece of a Bach chorale. Then, discovering gospel music, he started playing gospel changes on his guitar and stole a line from the Dixie Hummingbirds: "I'll be a bridge over deep water if you trust in my name."
I received a personal email from Jimmie Haskell who is
mentioned above in the quote by Paul. In addition to being the
only arranger/orchestrator of "Old Friends", he also
arranged and conducted "America", "So Long,Frank
Lloyd Wright", "Bookends Theme", and
"Keep the Customer satisfied". I've included his quote
Jimmie - When Chris Farnon of NARAS told me that "Bridge --" was submitted in the arranging category by Ernie Freeman, I told her that was correct, but that I admired what Larry Knechtal had done with the simple music I had written, and that Larry deserved to be included as a second "arranger". Chris called Paul, and then called me and said: Paul says your right, and that Jimmie Haskell should also be listed as arranger, and so should Art Garfunkel, and so should Paul Simon". I called Paul and thanked him, and he said "You should have won for your arrangement of "Old Friends", but you weren't ever submitted for that.
Paul - "Cecilia" for example, was made
in a living room on a Sony. We were all pounding away and
playing things. That was all it was. Tink a tong tink a
tink a tong tuck a tuck a toong tuck a . . . on a Sony,
and I said, "That's a great rhythm set, I love
it." Every day I'd come back from the studio,
working on whatever we were working on, and I'd play this
So then I said, "Let's make a record out of that." So we copied it over and extended it double the amount, so now we have three minutes of track, and the track is great. So now I pick up the guitar and I start to go, "Well, this will be like the guitar part"--dung chicka dung chicka dung, and Iyrics were virtually the first lines I said: "You're breakin' my heart, I'm down on my knees." They're not lines at all, but it was right for that song, and I like that. It was like a little piece of magical fluff, but it works.
Paul - 'It's not a Simon and Garfunkel tune. They'd never do it.'
Paul - "Fakin' It" was interesting. Autobiographically,
it was interesting. During some hashish reverie I was
thinking to myself, "I'm really in a weird position. I
earn my living by writing songs and singing songs. It's only
today that this could happen. If I were born a hundred years
ago I wouldn't even be in this country. I'd probably be in
Vienna or wherever my ancestors came from--Hungary--and I
couldn't be a guitarist-songwriter. There were none. So what
would I be? "First of all," I said, "I surely
was a sailor." Then I said, "Nah, I wouldn't have
been a sailor. Well, what would a Jewish guy be? A
tailor." That's what it was. I would have been a tailor.
And then I started to see myself as like, a perfect little tailor. Then, once, talking to my father about my grandfather, whom I never knew--he died when my father was young--I found out that his name was Paul Simon, and I found out that he was a tailor in Vienna. It wiped me out that that happened. It's amazing, isn't it? He was a tailor that came from Vienna.
As for Leitch, the girl who said that on the record, her name was Beverly Martyn--did you ever hear of John and Beverly Martyn? She wasn't married to John Martyn at that time, but I knew her from way back in English scufflin' days, and we brought her over to sing at the Monterey Pop Festival. I thought she was a really talented singer. She was sort of livin' around with us. It was during the psychedelic days. Records faded in and out; things became other things. And she was friendly with Donovan. So, we decided to make up this little vignette about the shop we wanted to come up with a name. She said, well, let's put in Donovan's name.
He Was My Brother
- Single release by Jerry Landis (aka Paul Simon)
- On the Paul Simon Songbook
- Wednesday Morning 3am
Art - 'I first heard this song in June 1963, a week after Paul wrote it. Cast in the Bob Dylan mould of that time, there was no subtlety in the song, no sophistication in the lyric; rather, the innocent voice of an uncomfortable youth. The ending is joyously optimistic. I was happy to feel the way the song made me feel. It was clearly the product of a considerable talent.'
Art - 'When I first heard it I knew that was a song I had to sing. Up until then we sang and wrote rock & roll songs together, but suddenly one of us could write poetic folk songs. I really connected with that. So the rejoining, after several years, was on the basis of the two of us as singers and Paul as the songwriter.'
Paul - If you know Widnes, then you'll understand how I was desperately trying to get back to London as quickly as possible. "Homeward Bound" came out of that feeling.'
Paul - 'That was written in Liverpool when I was travelling.
What I like about that is that it has a very clear memory of
Liverpool station and the streets of Liverpool and the club I
played at and me at the age of twenty-two. It's like a
snapshot, a photograph of a long time ago.
I like that about it, but I don't like the song that much. First of all, it's not an original title. That's one of the main problems with it. It's been around forever. But there's something naive and sweet-natured, and I must say I like that about it.
They're not angry. And that means that I wasn't angry or unhappy. That's my memory of that time; it was just idyllic. It was just the best time of my life, I think, up until recently, these last five years or so, six years ... This has been the best time of my life. But before that, I would say that that was.© Paul Zollo 1991
Paul - 'I remember playing a concert somewhere in the middle of
Germany. It's strange enough to be in Germany, and when I
finished playing, I was thinking, I hate Homeward Bound And
then I thought, Why do I hate it? I said "Oh, I hate
the words." So I went over them. And then I remembered
where I wrote it.
I was in Liverpool, actually in a railway station. I'd just played a little folk job. The job of a folk singer in those days was to be Bob Dylan. You had to be a poet. That's what they wanted. And I thought that was a drag. And I wanted to get home to my girlfriend, Kathy in London. I was 22. And then I thought, Well, that's not a bad song at all for a 22-year-old kid. It's actually quite touching now that I see it. So I wonder what's so embarrassing to me about it. Then I said, "I know! It's that I don't want to be singing that song as Simon and Garfunkel!"'
I am a Rock
Paul - That's a very young song. I wrote that in England and that's an adolescent song, or really, a post-adolescent song. Probably if I could, like, not have a song for a hit, I would pick "I am a Rock." and "The Dangling Conversation." If they would go away, I would be happy. But to be kinder to myself, I would say it's very young. ©1991 Paul Zollo
Paul - Unquestionably my most neurotic song. When I finished it I thought "Oh man,I can't be this sick!"'
A Most Peculiar Man
Paul - It is a song that I wrote while living in London and the seeds of the song were planted one day, when I read an article in the paper about a man who had committed suicide. Four lines in the paper in a little black box. I thought that was a very bad eulogy.
I had an interesting email from a Paul Weiss whose
father used to work in Capitol and Columbia's office
"My father Eugene J Weiss worked for Capitol and Columbia records in the fifties and sixties. A picture of a young Bob Dylan smoking a cigarette with the quote "God Bless You Please Bob Dylan" was hanging in his office during the sixties, he claims this was the inspiration for the famous chorus. Is it true?"
Another person (Kim Weaver) wrote to me say 'I just wanted to tell you that the story about Bob Dylan having anything to do with the song Mrs. Robinson is NOT true. In an interview I read some time ago Paul explained that he was originally writing a song about Eleanor Roosevelt and sometimes sang Mrs. Robinson instead of Mrs. Roosevelt. Artie told Mike Nichols that Paul was writing a song called Mrs. Robinson. So Mike Nichols asked Paul and Paul said that he didn´t know if it was Roosevelt or Robinson. Then Mike said :' Don't be ridiculous! we are making a movie here! It is Mrs.Robinson! And so the song became the soundtrack. This is all there was in the interview but I think it clearly shows that Bob Dylan did not have anything to do with it.
Art - This is a song that's an adaptation of an Edwin Arlington Robinson poem written some years back called Richard Cory.
Paul - 'That's a gorgeous song. I learned that from Martin Carthy. "Scarborough Fair" is like three hundred years old. Martin Carthy had a beautiful arrangement of it, and my arrangement was like my memory of his arrangement..' © Paul Zollo 1991
Art - This is a song that comes from the period of time about four years ago when we were doing just about all our singing in folk clubs in England throughout the countryside. It's a song that we learned from a friend of ours, an old English folk ballad called 'Scarborough Fair'.
The Sound of Silence
- The Paul Simon Songbook
- Wednesday Morning 3am
- The Sound of Silence (overdubs on 3am version)
- The Graduate
Paul - 'A societal view of the lack of
Paul - 'The lyrics burst forth practically writing themselves'
Art - The Sound of Silence is a major work. We were looking for a song on a larger scale, but this is more that either of us expected.'
Paul - 'Amongst my many neurosis, there was a time
when I couldn't bear the thought of digging yourself, I
thought that was the worst thing. To dig yourself, to think
that you were good because if you did dig yourself you never
did anything naturally and you're always worried about 'Was I
cool, wasn't I cool?' You know what I mean type scenes. A
tendency to look into imaginary mirrors to see how you're
coming out of every situation.
So, during the depths of this neurosis, I'm like shaving with my eyes closed, you know. See myself. One day I walked down Broadway in New York and where Broadway crosses 52nd street there's a drugstore that has a black, plate glass window. Very clearly you can see your reflection in it, if you are of the nature to seek out your reflection in drug store windows.
So, anyway I look and Pow! there I am, so I was shocked, I hadn't seen myself in about a year. So I was you know, truth be told, I was digging myself for about 45 seconds, an intense dig. When this bird that was perched overhead, like total disregard for me, just, he defecated on me. I don't know if this has ever happened to you but if it has, you know that it is virtually impossible to maintain your cool under those circumstances. Right?
Art - 'Sparrow contains much of the style that characterizes all the later work.' - In September 1963, I I returned from Berkeley, California where I had spent the summer. Paul had just completed Sparrow .. I was greatly impressed and I arranged the song for us. We sang at Folk City that night and formed the partnership'
Wednesday Morning 3am
Art - 'The heightened intensity of The Sound of Silence gives way here to a gentle mood, and the melody is once again a soft, smooth vehicle. It is a painting that sets a scene, sketches some details and quietly concludes.'