Music Monday with Simon and Garfunkle’s America

I was just 7 days shy of turning 7 months old when Simon and Garfunkle released the album Bookends in 1968. The third cut from that album is one whose harmonies and key changes has haunted me in such beautiful ways my whole life. If you’ve ever traveled cross-country in a bus, this song will take you back. But even if I you haven’t–how do I explain it? Well, the music does it for you. It takes you on the journey; you’ll swear you were on the bus.

1968 was before the age of music videos, but you didn’t need a video with a song like this. It was written so well you conjured it up in great detail in your head.  And the lyrics blend so artfully into the music, as good music should. You can’t help feel nostalgic. It’s even one of those songs in which I think the lyrics could stand on their own. But at this point, nearly half a century of radio time later, how you could ever read the lyrics without singing them? And likewise, how could you hear the music without singing along. That’s a hallmark of a good classic folk song.

I’ll include the lyrics below the video, and I will include another video below that, along with a link to a new blog I’ve been writing on this week. Yes, I have been working on some new poetry, and I read a little of it at my reading at Priestley Chapel last Sunday, but the new blog isn’t a poetry blog. In times like these it’s hard for a poet to not get political, even in primaries where opponents are, usually in many respects, at least ideally on the same side of the issues.

I’ve been slow to share the other blog here, not because I’m worried about people disagreeing with me on an already niche-poetry-site–after all, artists are often activists–but because some of my dearest friends either plan to, or have already voted for the other candidate, and I do not want anyone I care about to think that I am disrespecting them or their rights to vote their conscience. So, please, if Bernie Sanders is not your candidate, I respect that, and won’t feel slighted in the least if you chose not to follow the links. But if you support him, or are curious about whether you should, I’d be grateful if you clicked and checked out The Case for Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders, as you will see from the videos below, is who has got me thinking of this song “America.”

“Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together
I’ve got some real estate here in my bag”
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner’s pies
And walked off to look for America

“Kathy,” I said, as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
“Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitch-hike from Saginaw
I’ve come to look for America”

Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said, “Be careful, his bow tie is really a camera”

“Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat”
“We smoked the last one an hour ago”
So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

“Kathy, I’m lost,” I said, thought I knew she was sleeping.
“I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why”
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America

And the New York version:

The Case for Bernie Sanders

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4 thoughts on “Music Monday with Simon and Garfunkle’s America

  1. I was 17 when this record came out. I remember buying it and being a little disappointed that side one, with the new material, was decidedly brief compared to many LPs of that day.

    “America” might almost be called an art song. There are few rhymes, and that just didn’t happen in pop music of 1968. Their song called “Dangling Conversation” is very poetic. Maybe a little pretentious, but stellar in its words and music.

    Liked by 1 person

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