What does Bridge Over Troubled Water mean?

Simon & Garfunkel: Bridge Over Troubled Water Meaning

Album cover for Bridge Over Troubled Water album cover

Song Released: 1970

Covered By: Aretha Franklin (1971), Michael W Smith (2005), Glee Cast, Clay Aiken (2003)

Bridge Over Troubled Water Lyrics

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 tough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Sep 11th 2011 !⃝

    I was on a religious retreat in eighth grade when one of the nuns played this for us. Therefore, I always assumed 'the bridge' was Jesus and the song was about how He would always be there for us, no matter what. And that He was our best friend who would help us cross over those 'troubled waters' to happier times. The silver girl is our guardian angel. I play this song when faced with challenges and it always inspires me.


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    Jun 9th 2011 !⃝

    This masterful lyric portrays two older friends; one of which is fatally ill and suffering. In and around the heart of the lyric are allusions to the other friend being willing to step up and face the end with the soon to pass friend, while referencing that not many friends would rise to such occasion. "I'm on your side.
    When times get rough. And friends just can't be found." When that sacred time approaches, the friend proclaims: "I'll take your part, when darkness comes, and pain is all around." As she begins her journey toward paradise, as promised, the good friend is by her side, and he joyously helps console her as her spirit begins to flow, "Sail on Silver Girl, Sail on by. Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way. See how they shine."


    #3 top rated interpretation:
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    Feb 10th 2013 !⃝

    So...I'm no intellectual or anything but I think that the song should mean what ever you want it to? Personally I always though that it was simple about sacrifice and human decency, but for those that think it has different meaning thing more power to you. I think that as we change as people the meaning of life changes and that goes for songs to. Honestly I think of Jesus Christ's death on the cross as a sort of 'Bridge over Troubled Water' for believers and I think of the 'Sail on' and 'ill be close behind' part as a reminder that He will never me and anyone else who belives. But really its all about perspective. :)

  4. anonymous
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    Aug 25th 2019 !⃝

    Definitely about heroin.

  5. anonymous
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    Oct 14th 2018 !⃝

    This song represents my relation ship with my first wife. I tried to be there for her in her dark time and tried to be her safe place. I failed miserably. She committed suicide on August 28, 19993. It still hurts. She suffered from severe depression and was bi-poplar. I was not able to penetrate her darkness nor were the professional doctors. Bottom line was my failure. Tough ex-marine, construction worker and one time prize fighter, I still shed a tear for my deceased wife whenever I hear BOTW>

  6. anonymous
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    Jul 15th 2018 !⃝

    Whenever I hear song..I think of Jesus making Himself our bridge over all the troubled waters in our life...Jesus is our burden bearer ...He is our bridge over troubled waters, and always will be....We just need to call out to Him, and He will be there for,us through everything..He’ll Be That Friend, when friends are hard to find...I love this song..I’m getting older now, and I can testify,, that Jesus has always been, My Bridge Over Troubled Waters...

  7. anonymous
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    Mar 7th 2018 !⃝

    Never give up. In your darkest moments when there's no one around to help there is help. This song carries a spiritual meaning for me because when I'm at my worst, a miracle occurs and I cross my troubled waters successfully.

  8. anonymous
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    Apr 20th 2017 !⃝

    This is one of the most beautiful love songs ever written. My husband dedicated it to me just before we got married, he actually would sing it to me to lift my spirits. Oh how I Love him for the gift he gave me.

  9. anonymous
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    Apr 24th 2016 !⃝

    When you're weary
    Feeling small
    When tears are in your eyes
    I will dry them all
    I'm on your side

    Typical hardship of mundane existence. Feeling lost.
    Being aware of the lower self only. Not realizing that
    we have a dormant Higher Self or Divine spark ("Savior")
    which is awaiting our realization. Once truly realized,
    this Higher Self will "take away all tears" because the divine spark within us is "for us" and not against us. This Light within is
    "on our side" because it is the Light of the universe to which we
    all belong. No more seeing ourselves as separate entities. We
    are all ONE once this inner Light is turned on, though in essence
    we have always been one, but just blinded to this knowledge by our
    lower self/ EGO.

    When times get rough
    And friends just can't be found
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will lay me down
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will lay me down

    The Bridge is the "highway" (recorded in many religious
    metaphors) that carries us from this world of woe to Higher
    consciousness and realization. This "Bridge" is the ONLY "way"
    to true Life. Metaphorically speaking, this Bridge, Highway or "Savior"
    "lays itself down" for us (on our behalf) that we may pass over it and escape the hell of this lower mundane life of suffering which is due to our spiritual blindness.

    When you're down and out
    When you're on the street
    When evening falls so hard
    I will comfort you
    I'll take your part

    We all experience different and various degrees of suffering. Once we begin to truly realize that we have been imprisoned to our lower Ego, the Bridge will appear and we will be comforted from this time on ... forever. Our inner Light or Higher Self will now "take our part" over these earthly sorrows ... and "dry away all tears".

    When darkness comes
    And pain is all around
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will lay me down
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will lay me down

    Trails and tribulations can become intense.
    Unenlightened humanity is like the turbulent
    sea that cannot rest. This Bridge to peace
    is always dwelling just "above" these troubled waters,
    in the person of one's "Higher" Consciousness ...
    always waiting for us to cross.

    Sail on Silver Girl,
    Sail on by

    Once we realize the reality of this Bridge, our lives
    become "smooth sailing" from here on out. Most definitely "smooth sailing" as compared to our lives as "troubled waters". Metaphorically
    speaking, all people who are on this bridge are known as "virgins" (in the main religions of the world) ... "virgins" because they have a new life altogether now and are "pure" because of their Higher understanding. They now realize that they are not separate beings, but rather eternal consciousness ... therefore they are not "defiled" with the lower-thinking limitations of the Ego. These "silver" virgins (girls) have escaped the troubled waters and are now reflecting divine inner light
    from their Higher Self ... as the moon reflects its light from the source.

    Your time has come to shine
    All your dreams are on their way
    See how they shine

    It is finally their time to "shine". They are now radiant beings who realize their true connection to the universe. Their "dreams" are manifesting now ... not the desirous, materialistic "dreams" of the ego,
    but rather "dreams" of true peace and rest and joy which can only be found by crossing the Bridge. See how they shine! To shine is to ascend or bloom into Higher radiant consciousness.

    If you need a friend
    I'm sailing right behind

    This "Bridge" is also your "friend". Your Higher Self has always been and always will be your "Friend". It will never leave you nor forsake you. Therefore, when you need a "friend" your inner LIGHT is always there ... always traveling with you.

    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will ease your mind
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will ease your mind

    The lower earth-bound "mind" is the source of all sorrow. This is standard
    knowledge among the ancient wisdom writings of the world. This is what all main religions of the world metaphorically point to. This is the core teaching of them all. When we realize our Higher Self (Bridge), we finally become "awakened" or "liberated" or "enlightened" or "saved". Our "minds" have been "eased" to say the least!

  10. kooljohn176
    click a star to vote
    Aug 26th 2015 !⃝

    A great Simon and Garfunkel song that inspired some of us in thinking about the sacrifice that was made for a loved one[s]. The further back in time you go, the more sacrifices where made by the Fathers and Mothers as the best Parents they could be for their children in the hope for them to get their wings, sort of speaking to take of from their nests in the hope for a better and a safer future to be saved from the rough n.y. streets of the times. The parents were right behind them to comfort with loving support, by thinking out of the box for guidance and strength in the mindset of what Jesus has done as a sacrifice for all of us a long time ago to give us strenght to endure the pain of laying down for the loved one[s] to cross over the ''Bridge Over Troubled Water''.

  11. 6stringer
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    Jul 14th 2015 !⃝

    I found many of these posts interesting. I just can't go with drug themes, seems too pat for Paul Simon. But many of his songs are recognizable to those of us who love spirituals. I think this is among his first such efforts and take the words at face value. If you want God to be the BOTW, that is just great. If you want someone else, or something else, to be the BOTW that will work too. Spirituals often have dual meanings and functions. I read and appreciated all of the posts, Paul Simon is just so great that any discussion of his work is fun.

  12. Chris1235
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    Jul 13th 2015 !⃝

    I don't think Simon's ever admitted it, but it's clearly a hymn to cannabis. The "I" is the drug. Simon's said that the (tacked-on) "silver girl" third verse is about his partner's grey hairs. If that's true, perhaps he liked the second-meaning reference to heroine street-slang. I doubt that Simon ever injected heroine, but it was common in this heady days for cannabis users to occasionally add some opium or heroine to a spliff. Sorry, God-botherers, but I don't think it's about God or Jesus. Cannabis is emerging from its reefer-madness bad rep. Why shouldn't it have it's own hymn?

  13. anonymous
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    Dec 28th 2014 !⃝

    Simple yet complex. A mystery revealed cloaked in a play on words like many songs are. You have to have knowledge to understand how simple yet profound It is. This is a great deception. A gift of temporary friendship and help from the master that pulls the strings behind the veil of this dimension. It is a very selfish place to be because your will is given over to the master behind the veil and it causes you to lose true friendship and love in trade for temporary friendship to the one that has the power to move in this world. As you begin to see the curse of lonelyness that accepting this allegiance brings, the strings will be pulled for your own benifit. In the end the ones behind the veil that help you here become your tormentors in the place to come. Troubled waters is the place you go. The bridge is the deception that they are friends. I am sorry to say, you can't see behind the veil into the meaning if you are not privileged to the knowledge that there is a veil. This knowledge is intended to remain a mystery. After the distraction of the silly grey hair story for 99.9% of the masses, a little hint for the few that already know. If you want to be remembered for.........

  14. anonymous
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    Jun 20th 2014 !⃝

    I definitely think this song is about Jesus

  15. anonymous
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    Jun 10th 2014 !⃝

    Who really knows what was going through Paul’s mind when BOTW was written. Trying to interpret what a song means is like trying to interpret someone else’s painting – people will see different things. As for BOTW if anyone is interested, this is my take on the song. Water is symbolic of life and as verse 1 describes, sometimes life is not always smooth sailing, for whatever reason. Perhaps Paul had a friend or family member who was going through something very bad in their lives. It could have been a horrible illness or a very bad breakup, who knows but we all know people who are going through just these things. The words that Paul uses to end each verse are a commitment to be there and to help, whoever the song is written about, through whatever the trial is.
    Verse 2 is just a continuation of the theme of verse 1, showing empathy for what the person is going through. Then we get to verse 3, “Sail on silver girl, sail on by. Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way” I see “Silver Girl” as the cloud with the silver lining, this is the time of encouragement, that things will get better in time. “See how they shine, If you need a friend I'm sailing right behind.” Paul says look, hang on, and if you need me I will be there for you.
    We can analyze BOTW all we want but if that is all we do then the song has failed to do what Paul wanted it to do. Best we heed the words and try to help make this world a better place for others.

  16. ericjfrench
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    May 7th 2013 !⃝

    Just bought the Best Of...album again. I believe the interpretation that refers to the divine. Simon is not a druggie, he is a masterful poet and his lyrics are full of allusions to things divine. Just listen to Sound of Silence and tell me this isn't so. In BOTW, he lures you into the song by making you think it's about a lover or a friend, then the last verse he blasts you with "Sail on Silver Girl..." now he has your attention, you say to yourself, who is this Silver Girl? You are hooked and have no choice but to think and try to interpret the meaning. Genius song-writing.

    Anyway, my interpretation is that Silver Girl is FREEDOM symbolized by the Statue of Liberty in NY harbor. Freedom is God given and thus, divine. Lay me down refers to laying down ones life for their country in defense of freedom. Listen again and see if you don't agree.

  17. gazdamike
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    Jan 2nd 2013 !⃝

    James Mill wrote "Panic in Needle Park" in 1966 which used New York as the backdrop for his story detailing life on the streets for the homeless, junkies and the disenfranchised during that period. I believe Paul Simon saw New York for what it was at that same time and concurred with Mills and other social writers of the day and used this visualization as inspiration to sympathize with those on the streets.
    He, after all, lived on an island with these same Heroin addicts and the homeless and wasn't blind to society's problems there or even around the world at the time. His industry (music) was greatly engaged in uncovering and rectifying past social ills so he can't claim ignorance of these related facets.
    I too was agast at the idea that this was a drug reference song (it's so pretty and powerful)and didn't want to believe but the circumstantial evidence is there, (circumstantial is enough to convict in court btw.
    Simon may not have had the courage to risk future royalties either from fans who bought this or many other songs or the many artists who lined up to record "Bridge" afterwards. Nor would he want to venture the minefields awaiting him, i.e. percieved admonishments and repercussions, from the fear-mongering 1960's establishment that overzealously regulated drugs and frequently attempted to censor speech. I know I wouldn't.
    Now read the words to the song and decipher what it's really about, not what you want it to be. I read the part "when friends can't be found" to mean there is nobody who cares for that particular person who is alone in the whole world.
    "Lay me down...like a bridge over troubled water" are the chemicals injected by the street euphenism "sail on silver girl" syringe as the only thing keeping this person going who is either: "down and out [or]...on the street... When evening falls so hard... I will comfort you...I'll take your part... when darkness comes...And pain is all around...I will ease your mind" (pain).
    Their Heroin use is gifting them temporary peace: "All your dreams are on their way. See how they shine" as their only salvation for now by exploiting the release of endorphins and dopamine to experience the world with some relief from the reality of worries and sadness/pain.
    The "I" in the song is now Heroin to me, Christ to others (they still have "Amazing Grace" btw) and yet to another it specifies "friends" that formerly in the song..."just can't be found" who now, somehow strangely, has now found them.
    I have empathy for these tortured souls who quickly spiral down with so much pain and I think so did Simon as a poet who saw the world a lot clearer than I could ever hope too. Americans always want a clean happy ending with no loose ends so I can only guess that we are not going to agree on this but this is my two cents worth.

  18. anonymous
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    Jul 17th 2012 !⃝

    This song is quite spiritual in its meaning and theme for me. As a young person I always heard this song sang in the context of God being there for you in times of trouble, heartache and grief (i.e. He is the bridge that helps you get over the unfortunate times in life). The first verse infers that truth—especially the reference “when you’re weary,” “tears in your eyes” and “friends can’t be found” and continues this reference in the 2nd verse as it refers to someone who will “comfort you” and give you peace in the time of turbulent situations. Nonetheless, the simile “Like a bridge over troubled water” underscores the notion of a man being there to provide abundant peace and comfort to someone he loves who is in need.

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