“Bridge Over Troubled Water” became one of the most performed songs of the 20th century, with over 50 artists covering it. In 1970, The King of Rock and Roll released his version off his 1970 album That’s The Way It Is – and it helped Presley win over many critics claiming he was not a great vocalist.
The song was then included in Presley’s setlist for his next engagement in Las Vegas, including in the filming of the documentary Elvis: That’s The Way It Is, where a documentary crew followed him around that year from city to city. In fact, there are many videos of Presley performing the song live around the country that year.
The Most Comforting Song of All Time
Written by singer-songwriter Paul Simon, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is all about providing comfort to any person in need.
“When you’re weary, feeling small. When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all, all. I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough. And friends just can’t be found. Like a bridge over troubled water. I will lay me down,” the song goes.
It began as a modest gospel hymn but eventually became more dramatic as Simon put it together. “I have no idea where it came from. It came all of the sudden,” Simon said. “It was one of the most shocking moments in my songwriting career. I remember thinking, ‘This is considerably better than I usually write.'”
As Simon later revealed to biographer Robert Hilburn, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was written quickly in his apartment on New York’s Upper East Side. The “essence” took twenty minutes, and he said “the first two verses were done in two hours” — all exceedingly efficient for the extremely methodical Simon.
Simon has also noted that Elvis Presley’s rendition was a “touch on the dramatic side.” “But so was the song,” he added. “When I first heard Elvis perform ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,’ it was unbelievable. I thought to myself, ‘How the hell can I compete with that?'”
A Look Back To This Grammy Award-Winning Song
The song was originally recorded by Simon & Garfunkel off the duo’s 1970 album of the same name. It became their biggest hit single and is even often considered as their signature song. It was a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks at the same time, topping the charts in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and France. It was a top-five hit in eight other countries too, eventually selling more than six million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles.
The song went on winning five awards during the 13th Annual Grammy Awards in 1971, including Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Contemporary Song.
However, the song was sung by Garfunkel alone, per Simon’s suggestion to sing it in a “white choirboy way.” However, as their relations frayed before their 1970 breakup, Simon started thinking, “I’m sorry I didn’t do it” and for allowing Garfunkel to sing it solo.
“He felt I should have done it, and many times on a stage, though, when I’d be sitting off to the side, and Larry Knechtel would be playing the piano and Artie would be singing ‘Bridge,’ people would stomp and cheer when it was over,” Simon said. “And I would think, ‘That’s my song, man…'”
The song also met some controversies when its final verse, “Sail on, silver girl,” was sometimes claimed to be about a drug abuser’s intravenous needle. But the truth of the matter is that the line was written about Simon’s then-wife Peggy Harper, who got upset after finding a few gray hairs. Simon called her “Silver Girl” because of her hair.
Still, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” became one of the most enduring songs from the past five decades. Tune in below and watch Elvis Presley’s incredible rendition of this beautiful song.