149. Simon & Garfunkel – ‘America’ (1968)

“Kathy I’m lost, I said
Though I knew she was sleeping
I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike
They’ve all gone to look for America”

Taken from the album Bookends

UK #25, US #97

I’ve never been to America but I have made it quite clear that I would like to go, especially to New York City, where of course Simon & Garfunkel came from. If somebody is to ask me what I find attractive about the place, or why I want to go, I think I might just play them ‘America’, because it articulates it far better than I ever could.

Like all Simon & Garfunkel songs ‘America’ is phrased beautifully and contains absolute lyrical genius. More poetry than pop, the songs tell the tale of two young lovers who make their way across the United States, searching for the essence of their country, for why it holds such an important place in world history and why so many people make the country their home. It mixes this subject matter with a few cinematic scenes, and an uplifting, hopeful melody, perhaps to represent the hope of a new world that America held for the people who migrated there.

I’m a big fan of moments in song where everything is so wonderful it feels as though you may grow wings and fly at any moment, and that’s how the last two lines of the verse quoted above feel. “They’ve all come to look for America” is such a powerful image, and this song, while never a hit single, has become one of the most famous and beloved Simon & Garfunkel songs. It has been used as a symbol of solidarity and hope in times of trouble, and seeing it live last year is a musical memory that I will always cherish.

Live on David Letterman:

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