JOE's Classic Song of the Day - Simon and Garfunkel - The Only Living Boy in New York
A near perfect song.
Artist, album and year : Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge over Troubled Water, 1970
Why is it a Classic? : I've a theory that most songs exist in the background of people's lives because they fail to register in the memory, wallpaper music as I call it.
Some special tunes though have that unique ability to nonchalantly elevate your soul and warm your heart at the same time. These songs feel like they're personally written for you and you only.
The 'Only Living Boy in New York' is one, which is ironic, because Paul Simon wrote the lonely lyrics as a thinly veiled jab at Art Garfunkel after he decided to fly to Mexico to film a movie, thus leaving Simon alone in the New York recording studio.
Simon constantly refers to Garfunkel in the song as "Tom", alluding to their early days when they were called Tom and Jerry.
This song is proof of a relationship between friends and musicians that's slowly began to dissolve but it's testament to Simon's skill as a musician and songwriter that he managed to turn such a negative into a euphoric positive.
Note how tone in his voice changes from hitting those gentle soft whispers, the ethereal high notes and his incredibly passionate words directed towards his friend, especially on the lyric "let your honesty shine . . . like it shines on me".
The background vocals, featuring both Garfunkel and Simon, were recorded in an echo chamber and then multi-tracked eight times, and you get the impression that a whole choir of around 500 people were present.
Some songs have that unique ability to perfectly capture a persons head space, here it's those moments when you feel alone, short of friends or in need of a lift.
The Only Living Boy in New York is a a rousing and reassuring anthem that everything will be ok. How? Because sometimes, in order to make yourself feel better, you should do "nothing today but smile" even if you don't feel like it.
That moment on 2:50, when the rapturous background vocals come to the fore, feels almost as if your own troubles and worries are floating away.
Did you Know?: The film featured in Zach Braff's directorial debut Garden State.
The lyrical hook: "Hey let your honesty shine, shine, shine, Like it shines on me".