Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
The lyrics of The Only Living Boy In New York are copyrighted, but you can find them online if you can't understand them when they're sung. I think they're easier to hear than a lot of lyrics, such as "there's a bathroom on the right."
Of course, the song is my choice for the current Battle of the Bands. My contenders are Simon & Garfunkel and PigPen Theatre Co. If you haven't voted yet, I hope you'll do so at BATTLE OF THE BANDS: THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK.
Paul Simon wrote this song. Although I've cautioned my readers many times against thinking that the poetic persona is the poet (or songwriter), in this case, Paul admittedly addresses Art.
But he begins by calling Art "Tom." As you might recall from my post yesterday, A BRIEF HISTORY OF SIMON & GARFUNKEL, the duo had their first success as Tom & Jerry when they were in high school. Art was Tom.
So why does Tom fly to Mexico? He has a part in the 1969 movie Catch-22, directed by Mike Nichols. Nichols gave Simon & Garfunkel's career a big boost when he used their music for the soundtrack of his hit movie The Graduate in 1967.
Art wanted to try to have an acting career, but Paul was left behind. They would have gone to Mexico together for the movie because Simon had been offered a role, too. The offer was rescinded when Nichols cut the part. That left Simon as the only living boy in New York. Losing something that had been in his reach must have been painful for Simon.
I can't imagine that Nichols wanted to break up Simon & Garfunkel, but the split recounted in this song foreshadows their break-up as a musical pairing, which occurred the next year. Garfunkel, however, did not have a big career in movies. He played Jack Nicholson's friend in Carnal Knowledge. That and Catch-22 were his biggest accomplishments. As a singing solo act, Garfunkel had some success, but nothing compared to that of Rhymin' Simon.
The lyrics of The Only Living Boy In New York are wistful and lonely, but Simon wishes Garfunkel well. In the future, the two often did not wish each other well.
The Only Living Boy In New York wasn't one of their big hits, but it's been covered many times. Simon & Garfunkel also gave Zach Braff permission to use the original in his 2004 film, Garden State.
It's a beautiful and deceptively simply song.
Infinities of love,
Now that we've chatted about Simon & Garfunkel's association with Mike Nichols, how about if we listen to something from The Graduate?