Simon & Garfunkel: Bridge Over Troubled Water Meaning
Song Released: 1970
Covered By: Aretha Franklin (1971), Michael W Smith (2005), Glee Cast, Clay Aiken (2003)
Bridge Over Troubled Water Lyrics
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...
jade_years Jun 18th, 2010 6:46am report
At the time "silver girl" was a very commonly-used street reference to a heroin syringe. That Paul Simon would choose that exact phrase and have it mean anything other than a heroin syringe is not believable. If you accept this, and read the rest of the lyrics in this context the song makes perfect sense. References to "evening falling hard" and "I'm sailing right behind" make it almost too obvious. Simon refers to heroin as a Best Friend and Savior which comforts him and eases his pain. Anyone who has suffered from depression/addiction will relate to this only too well. The story about his future wife's grey hair just does not ring true, and is out of context with the rest of the song. As police were beginning to crack down on drug use and advocacy by rock musicians during this period, you can understand why Simon would be less than forthcoming about the song's true meaning
anonymous May 2nd, 2006 5:50am report
This song was wriiten by Paul Simon about his wife ... The sail on silver girl bit refers to the time Paul's wife was upset over the fact that white hairs were beginning to appear on her head. Read this in an interview of Paul Simon. This song certainly hasnt got anything to do with drugs ...it's simply the best love song ever!
kooljohn176 Aug 26th, 18:39 report
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''.
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.
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?
anonymous Dec 28th, 2014 12:56am report
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.........
anonymous Jun 20th, 2014 6:11pm report
I definitely think this song is about Jesus
anonymous Jun 10th, 2014 6:42pm report
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.
ericjfrench May 7th, 2013 5:47am report
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.
anonymous Feb 10th, 2013 2:35pm report
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. :)
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.
anonymous Jul 17th, 2012 7:55am report
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.
anonymous Jun 12th, 2012 6:59pm report
It's about what half of the songs on the album are about -- the eventual breakup of S&G. "I'll take your part" refers to Simon being there for Artie even if his future acting career doesn't take off. All other references are about being there for each other even though they will be going their separate ways.
anonymous May 4th, 2012 5:36pm report
this song is about a troubled person that has no one to count on but their is hope somewhere some place, and needs comfort.
anonymous Apr 22nd, 2012 4:13am report
This song is about jesus
anonymous Sep 11th, 2011 9:53am report
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.
anonymous Aug 20th, 2011 8:52pm report
The words "sail on silver girl" refers to his wife, she found some grey hairs on her head and had been freaking out about it. He's not far behind means he's getting old himself..... not heroin..
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