Friday, April 30, 2010
The Conspicuous Use of Humor in Simon and Garfunkle's "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
Simon and Garfunkle’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is arguably one of the best ballads ever written, and for good reason. The opening piano melody and lyrics “When you're weary, feeling small. When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all” are fantastic. However, a couple of weeks ago I was sketching fighter jets on the back of a program during a piano recital, when it occurred to me that most people fail to recognize the humor in this brilliant song. It might be that “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is one of the best songs written about anal intercourse since Morrissey’s “Hand in Glove.” Consider the following lyrics with particularly apt attention to the words “darkness” and “pain”: “I'll take your part/When darkness comes/And pain is all around/Like a bridge over troubled water/I will lay me down.” The reference is deliciously unnerving. One of the things this verse does is isolate some ways in which anal intercourse shapes the fate of the song’s narrator. Looking closely at the emphasis on anal intercourse as a thematic device in this song as well as others may be central in better understanding this complex album. Simon uses intricately rendered details in order to illustrate how mysteriously the experience will unfold. The presence of whomever the narrator is speaking to is bestial, a presence of power, embodying the forces that may well do him harm, perhaps even through volition. Did anyone else catch this? I went home and right away sat down at my computer and wrote Morrissey a fan letter thanking him for his songs and early work with The Smiths.