Having introduced this new little series yesterday, let’s begin the actual reckoning of favorite songs by favorite bands at the beginning.
I can never remember a time when I was not obsessed with music. I already had my own little transistor radio and portable turntable when we lived in New Jersey, before my sister was born, meaning I was about four years old at the time. I had various “kiddie” records that I spun repeatedly (I could probably still sing along to a lot of them were they to be presented to me), and also loved fiddling with the radio. But only for music. I never have liked listening to people talk on the radio, ever. Likewise books on tape. If I’m not talking to someone, or watching a movie or sports, or being in a quiet space (I respect those), then I want music on, not talking. I read my words rather than listening to them. Always have. Always.
At some point, the operation of my Dad’s more sophisticated hi-fi stereo system (one of those classic 1960s standalone cabinet pieces) was explained to me and I was allowed to play records and the radio on it as well. I am guessing I was five or six years old by this point. This new privilege also meant that I was given access to my Dad’s record collection, which was reasonably eclectic, looking back on it now. Jazz, folk, and Irish music were major themes, and early albums by Cat Stevens and Neil Diamond were favorites which I still adore.
That said, I know clearly and distinctly that the first “grown up” album that I came to love as much as my little kid music was Simon & Garfunkel’s breakthrough 1966 album, Sounds of Silence. My relationship with it was a little complicated, since it’s a surprisingly, deeply dark album, not necessarily thematically appropriate for a little kid, though I was obsessed with it. I’ve gone on the record (ha ha, no pun intended) in blaming Sounds of Silence for my childhood loss of innocence. You can read that story here. It’s a doozy.
I later came to love the remainder of Simon & Garfunkel’s small studio canon, but Sounds of Silence is certainly the one that I know and adore the most, every note, every word of it. Of the twelve artists for whom I will be creating Top Ten song lists in this series, Simon & Garfunkel have the smallest catalog, by far. But every one of their albums is great, and four of the five of them are represented in my Top Ten Tracks listing. The only one missing is the primordial Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. (1964), though its standout track, “The Sound of Silence,” does appear in its more fleshed out version from my favorite 1966 release, with its slightly different name.
So with that as introduction and preamble, here are the ten songs that, for me, most define Simon & Garfunkel and explain why I still love them, all these years on. They’re arranged numerically, #10 to #1. Picking a favorite favorite song was hard here, and I expect it will be even more so with some of the larger catalogs I’ll be evaluating in the weeks ahead. Oh well. There’s the fun in the thing, right? If it was effortless, I’d not put in the effort.
#10. “Mrs. Robinson,” from Bookends (1968)
#9. “I Am A Rock,” from Sounds of Silence (1966)
#8. “America,” from Bookends (1968)
#7. “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” from Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
#6. “For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her,” from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966)
#5. “The Sound of Silence,” from Sounds of Silence (1966)
#4. “Kathy’s Song,” from Sounds of Silence (1966)
#3. “The Boxer,” from Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
#2. “A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara’d into Submission),” from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966)
#1. “Blessed,” from Sounds of Silence (1966)
Note #1: Click Here for an after-the-fact summary of this series, with a convenient listing of links for all articles contained within it.
Note #2: For those who stream your music, Marcia has created a Spotify playlist with all of the songs discussed in this series. Note that the browser embed link below is limited to 100 preview songs. We have confirmed that all 120 songs included in the series are available when you open the playlist in the Spotify app.