Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel
What began as modest Gospel hymn, became more dramatic as it came together. (Simon & Garfunkel Songfacts)
Here’s the first verse:
When you’re weary
When tears are in your eyes
I’ll dry them all
I’m on your side
Oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
While the speaker who says “I will lay me down” isn’t identified, it is clear this is Jesus speaking, “providing comfort to a person in need.”
This type of hymn crosses the boundaries of music genre; it could as easily be song in a church or a piano bar. Like the Book of Ester, G-d isn’t mentioned directly, but His Hand prints are all over the work. Speaking in the documentary The Making of Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon said, “I have no idea where it came from. It came all of the sudden. It was one of the most shocking moments in my songwriting career. I remember thinking, ‘This is considerably better than I usually write.” (Simon & Garfunkel Songfacts)
A “song fact” states: “Elvis Presley did a version of this song that helped win over many critics who claimed he was not a great vocalist. It appears on his 1970 album That’s The Way It Is. Paul Simon said this about the Elvis recording: “It was in his Las Vegas period and done with conventional thinking. He sang it well, but it would have been nice to hear him do it Gospel because he did so many Gospel albums and was a good white Gospel singer. It would have been nice to hear him do it that way, to take it back – as opposed to the big ending; he seemed to end everything with a karate chop and an explosion. So he didn’t really add anything to the song. It’s not nearly as significant as the Aretha Franklin recording. It’s just a pleasure for me that Elvis Presley recorded one of my songs before he died.”
Despite Simon’s the song intention as a “modest Gospel hymn, not everyone will agree this song is an inspiration from the Spirit of G-d. Comments on the Songfests site include one from Sean of Brea, CA: “This masterful lyric portrays two older friends; one of which is fatally ill and suffering. In and around the heart of the lyric are allusions to the other friend being willing to step up and face the end with the soon to pass friend, while referencing that not many friends would rise to such occasion. “I’m on your side.
“When times get rough. And friends just can’t be found.” When that sacred time approaches, the friend proclaims: “I’ll take your part, when darkness comes, and pain is all around.” As she begins her journey toward paradise, as promised, the good friend is by her side, and he joyously helps console her as her spirit begins to flow, “Sail on Silver Girl, Sail on by. Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way. See how they shine.”
Tess, of Prince George, BC wrote: “I think regardless of what an artist thinks a song is about, once it enters the realms of the listeners it can take on meanings that the artist/s may never have thought of – and that (to me) is true artistry. It shows that the piece is so strong that it has complexity that can fit seamlessly into mulitple worlds. So for the Christians it is about Jesus, for those living with a dying friend, it is about standing strong in the face of grief and loss; for radical activists it is about standing with allies in unpopular causes like ending the Vietnam war was for many Americans; for those knowledgeable about and insightful about the lifes of the authors it reflects and is drawn from the artists’ personal experinces; sail on silver girl is at the very same moment about an aging lover and a heroin needle; it is about them all and more…. I think of Sarah MacLachan’s “in the arms of angel” which for her was about the death of a close friend from his addiction but which she has sung for our provincial SPCA to promote the adoption of animals who would otherwise be euthanized and many people who don’t know her interpretation absolutely believe it was inspired by and done from her love of animals. I can’t see that TV ad with her pure clear her voice without weeping.’
Tess’s understanding of a songs meaning is a way of interpreting not only songs, but poems and literature. Perhaps it’s also a way we interpret life. Jim Cushing, an excellent poet, is on faculty at Cal Poly, San Luis (Californina Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo, CA). I was privileged to take his class Interpreting Literature many years ago. I hope I never forget the first time I met Mr. Cushing. He sat cross-legged on a table in the front of the classroom, beaming ear to ear. As we all took seats, he began to speak, saying something like, “This is not an easy task we have ahead of us—interpreting literature.” As he spoke he stroked his chin with forefinger and thumb, seeming to emphasis the thoughtfulness that the course would require.
One of the many wonderful things I took from the course was that we come to literature, interpret literature, through not only the words as inspired by the author, but also from our own background, our own way of seeing the world. This explains why Simon can write a Gospel song that Sean can see so very differently. Tess gets it. It’s the beauty of timeless literature; its also what makes for interesting, and often tense, discussion about literature, songs, poems, even art. Who we are affects how we see art as much as the artists affects the work.
While working on my undergraduate degree at Humbolt State University, one of my lit classes covered poetry. I was tasked to do a class presentation. I choose some of Emily Dickinson’s poems; I particularly liked her poems that were like letters to G-d of her undying love. In the presentation, I read several poems and stated historical background on her. I stated my opinion that she was writing love songs to G-d. After my presentation, the English professor lambasted my presentation as totally ignorant. He said the poems were written to ED’s lover, of whom nothing is known. My professor was totally blind to the spiritual aspects of ED’s writing. But we come from different backgrounds and have different inner eyes for which we see the world. My interpretation clashed with the professor’s.
This professor’s thinking isn’t all that unusual, which is similar to Sean’s comment on Simon’s lyrics. Things of a spiritual nature are difficult to accept. Apostle Paul put it this way:
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 1 Cor 4:4
Apostle Paul is specifically blaming satan for blinding people in the world, that is without a relationship with the G-d of Heaven and Earth, the Creator, through His Son Y’shuaJesus. Y’shuaJesus explained this blindness to spiritual things when He quoted Isaiah, saying:
You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them. (Matthew 13:13-15)
Anne at Freedomborn: Aussie Christian Focus commented on Millions “. . .what many do not understand is that without The Holy Spirit we cannot understand God’s Truth as we see confirmed below (see entire comment) in Scripture, we also need God’s Wisdom which we were not Born with, it is the Principle thing in gaining knowledge and understanding. Jesus tells us to Ask , Seek and Knock and yes we will receive God keeps His Word. <snip>”
Whether you wish to receive Simon’s Bridge over Troubled Waters as a song of the love of G-d for all of us in need, or a song of love from a dear friend, I really hope you come to understand that Y’shuaJesus cares for each of us, is a dear friend to us all, and wants us to know Him. You will be eternally grateful if you do. Literally.
Lord Bless, Keep Shine. . .