From commenter named LARRY to whom I would give proper credit if only I knew who to credit!
Scarborough is a small town on the coast of England. The “Scarborough Fair” was a popular gathering in Medieval times, attracting traders and entertainers from all over the country. The fair lasted 45 days and started every August 15th. In the 1600s, mineral waters were found in Scarborough and it became a resort town. Today, Scarborough is a quiet town with a rich history. (thanks, Sheryl – Seal Rock, OR)
In Medieval England, this became a popular folk song as Bards would sing it when they traveled from town to town. The author of the song is unknown, and many different versions exist. The traditional version has many more lyrics.
Paul Simon learned about this song when he was on tour in England, where he heard a version by a popular folk singer named Martin Carthy. When Carthy heard Simon & Garfunkel’s rendition, he accused Simon of stealing his arrangement. Carthy and Simon did not speak until 2000, when Simon asked Carthy to perform this with him at a show in London. Carthy put his differences aside and did the show.
Martin Carthy learned the song from a Ewan MacColl songbook, and had recorded it on his first album, according to BBC’s Patrick Hamphries.
Paul Simon admitted to the July 2011 edition of Mojo magazine: “The version I was playing was definitely what I could remember of Martin’s version, but he didn’t teach it to me. Really, it was just naivety on my part that we didn’t credit it as his arrangement of a traditional tune. I didn’t know you had to do that. Then later on, Martin’s publisher contacted me and we made a pretty substantial monetary settlement that he was supposed to split with Martin, But unbeknown to me, Martin got nothing.”\
The lyrics are about a man trying to attain his true love. In Medieval times, the herbs mentioned in the song represented virtues that were important to the lyrics. Parsley was comfort, sage was strength, rosemary was love, and thyme was courage.
This was not released as a single until 1968, when it was used in the Dustin Hoffman movie The Graduate. It is on the soundtrack.
Before Simon & Garfunkel got to it, Bob Dylan used the lines, “Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine” in his 1963 song “Girl From The North Country.”
“Scarborough Fair” and “Canticle” are 2 songs that are sung simultaneously to create this piece. The first and last verses are “Scarborough Fair,” but lines from “Canticle” alternate after the first line of the other verses, so “On the side of a hill in a deep forest green” and “Tracing of sparrow on snow-crested ground” are from “Canticle.”
This song is often listed as “Scarborough Fair/Canticle.”
On The Paul Simon Songbook, a little known 1965 UK album of Simon-solo demos, there is a song called “The Side Of a Hill.” “The Side Of a Hill” was reworked into the Canticle part of “Scarborough Fair.” (thanks, Jesse – Roanoke, VA)
With its implicit anti-Vietnam War message, this was used in The Wonder Years TV series in a scene where Kevin Arnold embraces Winnie Cooper while the song was played at the end of the episode. In the show, Winnie’s brother had been killed in Vietnam.
(Thanks, Marciliano – Fortaleza, Brazil)
Those definitely were the days, my friends.
This song has always made me happy. It reminded me of waking up in New York and just enjoying life. I was young. So were they. And they lived sort of next door, so you never know. I might be the next great songwriter.
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Hello lamppost, whatcha knowing?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growing.
Ain’t cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in’ doo-doo, feelin’ groovy!
Got no deeds to do, no promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you, all is groovy.
Songwriters: Paul Simon
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
I would be surprised if almost everyone in my age grew — boomers — who grew up in the U.S. didn’t immediately hear this song in their head when they saw this prompt.
“The Sounds of Silence” was published in 1964 and became a generational anthem. What it means or doesn’t mean is immaterial compared to the way the lyrics and the music felt to us. It spoke to our loneliness, our fears of the future, our hopes that we could change the world coupled with angst about personal powerlessness.
The Sound Of Silence (3:08) MIDI
P. Simon, 1964
Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turn my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never shared
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
“Fools,” said I, “you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sound of silence
In 1964 I was a sophomore in college. Seventeen years old. Afraid of everything, afraid of nothing. In love, in fear, in hope. About to launch my personal ship of state. I had already left my parents home and was living on my own, making a million mistakes almost by the hour.
I bought this album and played it until the grooves wore out.
The version I’ve included on here is not the original recorded version. It’s the “reunion” of Simon & Garfunkel many years later. Not a lesser version, just a little bit different. The song still resonates … but maybe it says something different to me today than it did all those years ago.