Learn to Play: Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water"


"No, fainted-heart faltering boys! This baby is gonna go all the way. I’m gonna get behind it, we’re gonna advertise it, [and] we’re gonna have full faith in ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’ It’s the title of your album, it’s the first cut on your first side, and it’s your single.” - Clive Davis

Simon & Garfunkel | Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)

Though it was their last album together, Bridge Over Troubled Water is regarded by many as Simon and Garfunkel's finest work together—including Paul Simon himself—ultimately resulting in five Grammy awards and over 25 million record sales.

Among memorable tracks like "The Boxer" and "Cecilia," the title track "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is truly an amazing recording for the duo both contextually and musically. Art Garfunkel was spending the majority of his time filming for the movie Catch-22 while Paul Simon remained in the studio arranging, recording, and writing. Simon specifically wrote "Bridge Over Troubled Water" with Garfunkel in mind as the sole vocalist for a Gospel-inspired piano ballad (though he later admitted a bit of jealousy when Garfunkel would receive such wide acclaim for the song).

Originally written with only 2 verses, once the duo met up with producer Roy Halee in the studio, they decided to take a Phil Spector approach to the production which resulted in a third verse. Art Garfunkel remembers, "It occurred to me that [the first two verses were] only the setup for some kind of magnificent third verse that transcends all of this. This is the set-up. I said to Paul, 'Let us do the Phil Spector-production idea that we loved when we heard The Righteous Brothers’ recording of ‘Ol’ Man River.’ Spector has Bill Medley sing 98 percent of the song with just a simple backing, but in the final line of the song, Spector throws in the kitchen sink, and the record grows in dimension, about 12 times as big." And that is exactly what they did—Simon wrote a third verse and they recorded it to include strings, drums, bass, and additional vocals by Paul all creeping in one by one. The result is a grand crescendo of production growing out of a masterful performance put in by Garfunkel with pianist Larry Knetchel* to open up the classic 1970 finale of an album.

*The piano part is written and performed by Larry Knetchel who was known for his work as a member of Phil Spector's Wrecking Crew as well as session work with the Beach Boys, the Mamas & the Papas, Elvis, Bread, and many more. Knetchel won a Grammy in 1970 for his work on "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

Learn to Play “Bridge Over Troubled Water” Now!

Learn the song for yourself, keeping in mind the thematic growth envisioned by Paul Simon as he wrote the tune. As always, be sure to send your recordings back at us so we can give them a listen. Extra bonus points if you can play and sing it at the same time!

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