“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel . . . available as a Chord/Melody arrangement for Ukulele by Ukulele Mike Lynch . . . Contained in the Chord/Melody eBook TWO (now reduced to just $20.00)
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” as sung by Simon & Garfunkel
We learn from WIKIPEDIA that “Bridge over Troubled Water” is a song by American music duo Simon & Garfunkel from their fifth studio album, Bridge over Troubled Water (1970). Produced by the duo themselves and Roy Halee, the song was released as the follow-up single to “The Boxer” on January 26, 1970. Composed by singer-songwriter Paul Simon, the song is performed on piano and carries the influence of gospel music. The original studio recording employs elements of Phil Spector‘s “Wall of Sound” technique using L.A. session musicians from the Wrecking Crew.
It was the last song recorded for their fifth and final album, but the first fully completed. The song’s instrumentation was recorded in California while the duo’s vocals were cut in New York. Simon felt his partner, Art Garfunkel, should sing the song solo, an invitation Garfunkel initially declined. Session musician Larry Knechtel performs piano on the song, with Joe Osborn playing bass guitar and Hal Blaine closing out the song with drums. The song won five awards at the 13th Annual Grammy Awards in 1971, including Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
The song became Simon & Garfunkel’s biggest hit single, and it is often considered their signature song. It was a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks, and it also topped the charts in the United Kingdom, Canada, France, and New Zealand. It was a top five hit in eight other countries as well, eventually selling over six million copies worldwide, making it among the best-selling singles. It became one of the most performed songs of the twentieth century, with over 50 artists, among them Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin, covering the song. It was ranked number 48 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
“Bridge over Troubled Water” was composed by Paul Simon very quickly, so much so that he asked himself, “Where did that come from? It doesn’t seem like me.” The chorus lyrics were partly inspired by Claude Jeter‘s line “I’ll be your bridge over deep water if you trust in me,” which Jeter sang with his group, the Swan Silvertones, in the 1958 song “Mary Don’t You Weep.” According to gospel producer and historian Anthony Heilbut, Simon later acknowledged his musical debt to Jeter in person, and additionally handed Jeter a check as compensation. Simon wrote the song initially on guitar, but decided to transpose it to the piano, to both better reflect the gospel influence and to suit Garfunkel’s voice.
When Simon showed the song to his partner, he informed him that he felt Garfunkel should sing it by himself, the “white choirboy way.” Garfunkel declined, feeling it was not right for him and believing that Simon should sing it. Garfunkel reportedly liked Simon’s falsetto on the demo and suggested that Simon sing. He and producer Roy Halee also thought the song needed three verses and a ‘bigger’ sound towards the end. Simon agreed and penned the final verse, though he felt it was less than fully cohesive with the earlier verses. The final verse was written about Simon’s then-wife Peggy Harper, who had noticed her first gray hairs (“Sail on, silvergirl”). It does not refer to a drug abuser’s hypodermic needle, as is sometimes claimed. The verse was Garfunkel’s idea, and Simon has never cared for it.
“Bridge over Troubled Water” was the final track to be recorded but the first one fully completed, with an additional two weeks of post-production. Simon initially composed the song in G major, but arranger and composer Jimmie Haskell transposed the song to E-flat major to suit Garfunkel’s voice. The song was recorded in California, to make it easier for Garfunkel to go to Mexico to film Catch-22. Simon wanted a gospel piano sound, and so he hired session musician Larry Knechtel. The song was initially two verses long, but Garfunkel felt the song was too short, and asked Knechtel to play a third verse, to which Simon would write more lyrics. Joe Osborn played the two bass guitars, one high and the other low. A horn section rounded off the song. The drums were played in an echo chamber to achieve a hall effect. Due to a series of factors, the duo had to work on a new tape; an arranger falsely labeled the song as “Like a Pitcher of Water”, wrote Garfunkel’s name incorrectly and the string part was unsatisfactory.]
Simon and Garfunkel then returned to New York to record the vocals. The vocal style in “Bridge over Troubled Water” was inspired by Phil Spector‘s technique in “Old Man River” by The Righteous Brothers. After two months the song was finalized. Simon himself admitted that it sounded like the Beatles‘ “Let It Be“, stating in an Rolling Stone interview: “They are very similar songs, certainly in instrumentation …”
As their relations frayed preceding their 1970 breakup, Simon began to feel jealous that he allowed Garfunkel to sing it solo:
He felt I should have done it, and many times on a stage, though, when I’d be sitting off to the side and Larry Knechtel would be playing the piano and Artie would be singing “Bridge”, people would stomp and cheer when it was over, and I would think, “That’s my song, man…”
As I began to conceive an arrangement for the simple little instrument the UKULELE . . . this song seemed at first to be a towering icon of music and I wasn’t entirely sure would carry well with the Ukulele . . . However, after working and living with it over several days . . . I began to see how the uke could reveal a softer, gentler and more intimate sound that truly did reflect, I believe, the intention of Paul Simon. . . I hope you might find this arrangement worthy. . .
Below is a short excerpt from the opening of the song . . .
Make note that low melody line at the beginning calls for us to play most of it on the 2nd string. . . So, make sure you don’t play the first string in these opening measures. . .Don’t worry the melody eventually jumps up to the First string and the chords become larger and much fuller . . . Below is another excerpt from later in the song where the chords to get much fuller and very delicious sounding . . .
Notice the D7 chord in the second measure. . . It’s not your typical D7 . . It is what we call a higher inversion form of the D7 chord. To play this chord, you will need to Barre the Fifth Fret . . then place the middle finger on the Sixth Fret of the Third string.
In like manner, in the next measure you will play the E7 the same way but moved up to the 7th Fret. . . Place the middle finger on the 8th Fret of the Third string.
This arrangement of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is contained in the Chord/Melody eBook TWO. .. It can be purchased by making a payment of just $20.00 through the paypal button on the Ukulele Mike website: http://www.ukulelemikelynch.com Once purchased, it will be emailed to you within the day.
Table of Contents for Chord/Melody eBook TWO . . .
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