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#SLS — “America,” by Simon & Garfunkel

Jim Adams is the musical researchmeister host of Song Lyric Sunday.  Jim says:
This week we have Home Town or City and this may be more challenging, because it is different from the usual prompts that we have here on Song Lyric Sunday. Pick a place that you consider to be your home town or city, or some place that you relate to and then try to find a song that mentions it.

Here are the “rules”:
• Post the lyrics to the song of your choice, whether it fits the theme or not. If it does not fit, then please explain why you chose this song.
• Please try to include the songwriter(s) – it’s a good idea to give credit where credit is due.
• Make sure you also credit the singer/band and if you desire you can provide a link to where you found the lyrics.
• Link to the YouTube video, or pull it into your post so others can listen to the song.
• Ping back to this post or place your link in the comments section below.
• Read at least one other person’s blog, so we can all share new and fantastic music and create amazing new blogging friends in the process.
• Feel free to suggest future prompts.
• Have fun and enjoy the music.

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Kathy Chitty and Paul Simon

There aren’t any songs written about the town I was born and raised in, but there are a few where my State, Michigan, is mentioned. In “America,” by Simon & Garfunkel, they mention Saginaw by name, which is a good 2-3 hours from here. I’ve been there several times, and it may have been beautiful back in the late 1960’s but is a beleaguered part of the rust belt now.

America” is a song performed by American music duo Simon & Garfunkel, which they released from their fourth studio album, Bookends, in 1968. Produced by the duo and Roy Halee, the song was later issued as a single in 1972 to promote the release of Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits.

The song was written and composed by Paul Simon, and concerns young lovers hitchhiking their way across the United States, in search of “America,” in both a literal and figurative sense. It was inspired by a 1964 road trip that Simon took with his then girlfriend Kathy Chitty.

Producer Tom Wilson had called Simon back to the United States to finalize mixes and artwork for their debut studio album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. Simon, living in London at the time, was reluctant to leave Chitty and invited her to come with him, forgetting the album and spending five days driving the country together.

In 2004, Bob Dyer, a former disc jockey from Saginaw, Michigan, explained the song’s genesis in an interview with The Saginaw News. According to Dyer, Simon wrote the song while visiting the town in 1966 after Dyer had booked him for Y-A-Go-Go, a concert series hosted by the Saginaw YMCA.

I asked Paul Simon if they were still charging the $1,250 we paid them to play and he said they were getting about four times that much then. Then I asked him why he hadn’t pulled out, and he said he had to see what a city named Saginaw looked like. Apparently, he liked it; he wrote ‘America’ while he was here, including that line about taking four days to hitchhike from Saginaw.

The song has been regarded as one of Simon’s strongest songwriting efforts and one of the duo’s best songs. A 2014 Rolling Stone reader’s poll ranked it the group’s fourth best song.

Other interesting tidbits about the song, from wikipedia:
The song enjoyed a resurgence in popularity — and was introduced to a new generation — after being featured in Cameron Crowe’s critically acclaimed film Almost Famous in 2000. An early scene in the film, set in 1973, finds the free-spirited character “Anita” (Zooey Deschanel) playing the song for her mother (Frances McDormand) to “… explain why [she] is leaving home to become a stewardess.”

In 2010, lyrics from the song began appearing spray-painted on vacant buildings and abandoned factories in the town of Saginaw, Michigan, which is mentioned in the song. The group of artists, Paint Saginaw, decided to paint the phrases after the population had dwindled vastly, noting that the song became rather “homesick” for the town’s residents. The song’s entire lyrics are painted on 28 buildings in the city, including railroad tracks and bridge supports.

The song was featured in “America,” a television advertisement for the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries. The campaign sought permission to use it from Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel themselves, who both agreed. Garfunkel stated that he was a supporter of Sanders and his campaign, and that the usage of “America” did not take away from the song’s original premise.

 

 

Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together
I’ve got some real estate here in my bag
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner’s pies
And we walked off to look for America
Cathy, I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I’ve gone to look for America

Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said, be careful, his bowtie is really a camera
Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat
We smoked the last one an hour ago
So I looked at the scenery
She read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America
Songwriters: Paul Simon

34 thoughts on “#SLS — “America,” by Simon & Garfunkel

  1. That last stanza always catches my throat…having traveled the NJ turnpike so many times in my life. New Jersey is a good place to look for America.
    Once the NY skyline comes into view I know I’m home. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally love this song. This one and Sound of Silence takes turn at my number 1 S&G song. And both are in my top ones period. It sets a mood all on it’s on.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. No loved it. Some songs are important in peoples lives…this is one of them. It also connects me with that trip I mentioned yesterday.
        I kept playing their greatest hits over and over and over…on the way and back.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Another Simon and Garfunkel song from the late 60’s which seemed to be a perfect fit for those times. One of their best! I’ve never been to Saginaw- but I’ve been on the New Jersey Turnpike. I’ve been to Pittsburgh hundreds of times!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A great song both melody and lyrics. I really need to get some actual S&G cds, but (perhaps suggesting the role of Art in the duo) I have this song and several others of theirs in a compilation CD of Pauls’ greatest hits. One of America’s best songwriters.
    Sidebar to HAns – you know, Pittsburgh might be the American city I HAVEN’T seen that I’d most like to…looks very nice with the rivers and all that green space.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bookends is the only one I have of theirs. I rode through Pittsburgh in a van with a juvenile I was transporting to residential treatment there. I remember endless miles of dense urban area, where it looked like the space had been cut out of the side of a mountain.

      Like

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