Song of the Day #1,233: ‘Old Friends/Bookends Theme’ – Simon & Garfunkel

In September of 1981, a planned Paul Simon solo concert turned into a generation-inspiring event when Simon invited Art Garfunkel to join him onstage in Central Park. Half a million people gathered on the Great Lawn to witness the historic reunion.

The resulting album is a lovely, touching document of the event and a hell of a batch of songs, too. It has a charmingly rough quality, including some flubbed verses and musical stumbles, which only serve to highlight the spontaneity of the show.

Simon & Garunkel kicked off the encore with today’s SOTD, a medley of ‘Old Friends’ and ‘Bookends Theme’ from their penultimate album, Bookends. Despite the rocky path of their friendship, it’s clear the two men still share a comfortable camaraderie.

I knew this album before I owned any of the Simon & Garfunkel records or Simon’s solo work. This was my introduction to such great songs as ’50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’ and ‘Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard,’ which I assumed were S&G songs due to their inclusion here.

Old Friends
Old Friends
Sat on their park bench like bookends
Newspaper blowing through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes
Of the old friends

Old Friends
Winter companions the old men
Lost in their overcoats
Waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settle like dust
On the shoulders of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy…

Old Friends
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fears

(Musical Interlude)

Time it was
And what a time it was
It was a time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,233: ‘Old Friends/Bookends Theme’ – Simon & Garfunkel

  1. Amy says:

    I love this moment – and this album. I’m not sure why the concert so captured my attention, since I clearly didn’t have any nostalgia for the duo. I guess I was just always a sucker for a good narrative, and this was a great one. I knew “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” was a Paul Simon song thanks to our parents’ reel to reel of that solo effort, but I was shocked to learn years later that Me and Julio wasn’t a S&G tune.

    This is such a lovely moment – and song. Just beautiful.

  2. D says:

    I remember seeing parts of this concert live. This was around the time of a number of big event concerts in Central Park. I also remember vividly the Diana Ross concert, which occurred during a torrential downpour, but Ross tried to sing through it.

    Anyway, back to S&G–definitely a great moment. It wasn’t my introduction to most of these songs, though I’m not sure how I knew them all beyond radio play and perhaps my sister owning an S&G or Simon album.

    This reunion always makes me think that a similar reunion might have occurred with the Beatles if Lennon had not been killed and, instead, Lennon or McCartney played Central Park. Can you imagine the moment one of them joined the other on stage in the early 80’s, or better yet, three others emerged for the total reunion. Ah, if only….

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