Bridge over Troubled Water is the title track of Simon & Garfunkel’s fifth, and final, studio LP, and the second single from the record. As was the duo’s practice, the song was written by Paul Simon, while Art Garfunkel helped with the arrangements. The song initially had two verses, but Garfunkel persuaded the reluctant Simon to add a third.Simon & Garfunkel were already immensely popular when they released the Bridge over Troubled Water LP in 1970. By 1972, the album was the best-selling album of all time, thus far. The title song was also Simon & Garfunkel’s most successful single. The video of the duo performing the song is from the 25th anniversary R&R Hall of Fame concert, 2009.
For the original version, Paul Simon insisted that Art Garfunkel sing the song alone, though Simon harmonised on the final verse. This was a decision that Simon came to have misgivings about: “He [Garfunkel] felt I should have done it, and many times on a stage … I’d be sitting off to the side and … Artie would be singing Bridge, people would stomp and cheer when it was over, and I would think, that’s my song, man.” By 2009, Simon had rectified matters and was singing more of the song.
Bridge Over Troubled Water may have been Paul Simon’s song, but according to Wikipedia, it was one of the most performed songs of the 20th century. The song has been interpreted by over 400 different acts. Astonishingly, Consequence Sound reports that by the end of 1970, the song appeared on 24 charting albums, with 12 more in 1971. One cover was close to Simon’s heart. In 1970 he told Rolling Stone “When I first wrote Bridge, I said, Boy, I bet Aretha could do a good job on this song.” She did.
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel grew up in Queens, NY, met at school, and formed the duo Tom and Jerry as teenagers. Despite their long friendship, the relationship between them was famously fractious by the time they recorded Bridge Over Troubled Water. After the record was completed, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel went different ways.
They occasionally performed concerts, including the famous Concert in Central Park of September 1981, and they even embarked on the odd tour, but their personal differences always came to the fore. In 2018, Paul Simon announced that he was retiring from all touring, so it is unlikely that Simon & Garfunkel will ever make music together again.