The other day my friend Wrekehavoc had a couple of Paul Simon tunes on her blog posting. Of course that got me to listening to Simon and Garfunkel songs for a few days. I have the box set Old Friends as a playlist on my ipod, so during my commute I had some nice times listening.
I came away with more appreciation to a lot of older S&G gems that are not heard too often like Bleecker Street, For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her, He Was my Brother, and many others. There are so many S&G songs that I love. In fact, next to The Beatles and Billy Joel I would probably rank them as my third favorite group. I could probably write a whole book on their work.
One song came up on the ipod and it is one of the more well-known songs, but I saw it in a different light. The song is Scarborough Fair/Canticle. What may not be known by most people is that Paul Simon did not write this song. The song itself is an old English ballad which is an exchange between a man and a woman giving each other seemingly impossible tasks. If they succeed they can be together (for example, making a shirt without seams). The Scarborough Fair was a real fair in England which was a gathering of merchants from all over Europe to sell and barter. With so many people in one place, entertainers were also there and it became a real old English fair.
Paul Simon (with the help of Martin Carthy) came up with the arrangement we are familiar with and Art Garfunkel set it in counterpoint with Canticle (which is based on an earlier Simon song which now included anti-war lyrics). It is this piece called Canticle that really struck me today with what we hear in the news about Iraq.
Many people know the lyrics to Scarborough Fair, but not to Canticle, so I want to add them here and you can see how this really fits what we are seeing today (especially the final line).
On the side of a hill in the deep forest green
tracing a sparrow on snow-crested ground
blankets and bedclothes a child of the mountains
sleeps unaware of the clarion call
On the side of a hill, a sprinkling of leaves
washes the grave with silvery tears
a soldier cleans and polishes a gun
War bellows, blazing in scarlet battalions
generals order their soldiers to kill
and to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten
I always prefer to post youtubes with video so here is a version together with Andy Williams. Unfortunately the middle verse of Canticle was left out from this performance.