On This Day: Simon & Garfunkel Record Bridge Over Troubled Water

Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel recorded the lead song of their best and final album on this day, November 9, 1969, the title track of Bridge over Troubled Water.

The duo had been playing shows around the east coast and also recording in New York City. Fixated and committed to the album, they passed on performing at Woodstock.

The song took two months to create. Simon explained to Dick Cavett how the music is a complicated amalgam of Bach, The Beatles, and gospel. And the title comes from something a scat singer belted out.

The album is one of the best selling of all time, moving over 25 million units, and it collected six Grammys including Album of the Year and Song of the Year. But its wild success didn't stop Art Garfunkel from pursuing his acting career and the band split up the same year the album came out.

Garfunkel got his wish by appearing in two Mike Nichols films: Catch-22 (1970) and Carnal Knowledge (1971).

Jack Nicholson, Ann-Margret, and Art Garfunkel on the set of Carnal Knowledge.

“I have no idea where it came from,” Simon said of the single in the 2011 music documentary The Harmony Game. “It just came, all of a sudden… I remember thinking, this is considerably better than what I usually write.”

And yet when it was finally put to press and the album came out, the songwriter thought more upbeat tune on the record would be the smash.

For its 50th anniversary Columbia released the live album of Simon & Garfunkel from November 1969, when Bridge was released.

“I felt 'Cecilia' would be a hit but 'Bridge' was something more,” Simon told his biographer, former LA Times music critic, Robert Hilburn. “It was a landmark record.”

For six weeks in 1970, the song "Bridge over Troubled Water" was #1 and for ten weeks the album sat on top. It would become one of the most beloved and covered songs of the 20th century.

The early '70s were also huge for Elvis Presley whose career was being resurrected after poor management decisions to continually throw The King into one disposable movie after another.

Not long after this Comeback Special, Elvis latched on to "Bridge over Troubled Water" performing it nearly 200 times between 1970-1977.

In a Q&A last month in the Hamptons during a film festival, Simon said he doesn't actually like singing the song live.

"Of the songs I do in a set, I don't look forward to singing 'Bridge Over Troubled Water," whereas I like to sing "The Song of Silence."

You know who does like singing "Bridge..."? John Legend. The handsome pianist has covered it nearly 50 times.

Earlier this year he and fellow EGOT-winner Jennifer Hudson covered the Simon & Garfunkel hit on Hudson's TV talk show.

Legend played it as recently as this week early in this set at the Beacon in NYC.

Legend only has a few more dates scheduled on his 2023 tour. Get tickets for the remaining shows on his website.

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