This song, so full of inexpressible sadness…

May 18, 2010 at 11:25 am (Music)

“Old friends, old friends, sat on a park bench like bookends…”

I spend a great deal of time on YouTube, primarily watching classical music and ballet videos. Primarily – but not exclusively.  YouTube suggests videos to subscribers based on what they’ve watched recently. Not long ago I spotted this Simon and Garfunkel classic among their recommendations.  I’ve now watched it numerous times, but every time I launch it, I get this clutching sensation in the pit of my stomach. Still, I feel compelled to look, and to listen.

For those of us came of age in the sixties, Simon & Garfunkel were the gods of popular music.  This reminds me why:

Bookends…Will succeeding generations know what these quaint artifacts of the past were actually for? For that matter, will there still be newspapers that can blow in the wind, rather than glow on the screen? (And yes, it hurts my heart as I write this.)

A commenter points out that these two men, both born in 1941, are soon to find out for themselves just “how terribly strange” it is to be seventy. (God willing, I will soon achieve this milestone birthday in four short years.)

I cannot help wondering what gave Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, in their youth, such insight into the inexpressible sadness of mortality. Those lyrics, with their haunting ellipses… Their voices lack power, but the hushed tones are, in this instance, exactly right. I thank these two for this small masterpiece.

Another commenter picked out  the line: “Preserve your memories; they’re all that’s left you.”



  1. Kay said,

    Actually, the Simon & Garfunkel song I find myself humming more often these days is “Slip Sliding Away.” Hmmm.

    • Roberta Rood said,

      Yes, well that too!

    • Joanna said,

      Slip Sliding Away is a Paul Simon solo song, written after their split and yes it’s a beautiful song.

  2. Thomas at My Porch said,

    There is a great blog called Park Benches and Bookends. Now I know where the title comes from.

    • Roberta Rood said,

      Thanks for this, Thomas. Park Benches and Bookends is indeed a lovely site. I also like yours, “My Porch.” We esteem several of the same authors.

  3. Joanna said,

    A great song, written by a genius songwriter. Paul Simon, who wrote all the songs in the S&G years has been producing phenomenal music for over 40 years.

    • Roberta Rood said,

      I agree, Joanna. Paul Simon might be the last of the great lyricists.

  4. Nan said,

    I’ve found that so many of the great, great writers have a maturity in their twenties that didn’t surprise me when I was that age, but now that I look back, I’m astounded. Ray Davies of the Kinks is the prime example. But Dylan, Joni Mitchell, a zillion of the great poets, and yes, S&G. Amazing depth, understanding, and compassion for humanity. As Dylan wrote, “I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now.” I find that of myself – I was so serious in my twenties. Whew! I’d sit through Bergman movies, and think, ‘wow.’ Now I couldn’t be dragged to one. :<)

  5. Meredith Chancellor said,

    Ah Roberta,

    I’ve had a horrible day, and to come home to your post, I’ve no choice but to put it all in perspective. You and my old friends S & G moved me to tears. I have a feeling I will revisit your thoughts here, just as I continue to play my best music from the old days. The best songs never grow old (though we do!).

    • Roberta Rood said,

      Oh Meredith – How true, how true…

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