Favourite Songs #3 – The Only Living Boy in New York

Simon and Garfunkel – The Only Living Boy in New York

Like the ancient mariner I am continuing an endless voyage of harping on to strangers and friends alike about how underrated Paul Simon is. He has to be one of the very greatest songwriters of our time. And in my opinion the very best of all his songs is this one.

Despite its lushness and grandness it is incredibly intimate. It’s a love song for a friend. He wrote it about Art Garfunkel who was heading off at the time to make a movie in Mexico. He refers to him as Tom which is a reference to their early days together when they were called Tom and Jerry. His words being a show of support, a sort of a you’ll be fine, don’t worry.

The line ‘Let your honesty shine, like it shines on me’ still brings tears to me eyes. Love between friends is rarely explored in songs and the idea of admiring someone’s honesty almost never. The idea of honesty in lyrics is incredibly appealing to me. Likewise the ideas of innocence or decency. It is such a difficult thing to describe and write about yet something so lovable in a person. It is cutting everything else out of the equation and looking right into the soul – and when you really think of that and focus on it’s meaning, it can be quite breathtaking.

While this track is sentimental it is so in wholly pure way and fortunately doesn’t suffer from some of the sickly sweet production of some other Simon and Garfunkel tracks. I have no doubt it will remain a favourite of mine until the day I die.

Incidentally honesty features greatly in my next choice too. It must be in the air

The Only Living Boy in New York


4 responses to “Favourite Songs #3 – The Only Living Boy in New York

  1. “Half of the time we’re gone/but we don’t know where/and we don’t know where…” Sublime song, sublimely appraised.

  2. Last night I was watching the DVD of the December 2003 S & G NYC concerts and I was so moved by this song – its melody, the sentiments voiced and the performance. Like many of Paul Simon’s best songs it has the quality of a hymn about it, to my mind. Exquisitely beautiful song – from a musical and poetic genius – long may he continue to delight us. Quite coincidentally, I learned this morning (I’m in Cape Town) that it’s Paul’s birthday today! Good health, happiness and prosperity and grateful thanks to you! Please come back and play SA again soon!

  3. Paul Simon is my favorite musical artist of all time and I think this song is probably my favorite of his songs. So simple, so lovely…it soars! My son is downstairs right this moment rehearsing it to play it at church this evening for a service on self-awareness and introspection. My husband is playing flute with it and singing harmonies. It should be great! So nice to know that there are others that appreciate Mr. Simon and his work the way I do. Do you guys like the “One Trick Pony” album as much as I do. It isn’t mentioned much, but I think it was some of his very best work!

  4. I have been meditating on the song all morning trying to get what my heart was feeling into words for my mind to understand. Your interpretation of the song was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you

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