Sad Song Saturday: Simon and Garfunkel - America (download)
In this song Paul Simon projects an entire relationship onto a trip from Michigan to New York. The “Kathy” mentioned in the song (and a few other Simon and Garfunkel songs) is real-life ex-girlfriend Kathy Chitty. “Let us be lovers,” he says at the beginning, and the song tracks their courtship from earnest to playful to not-exactly-hopeful: “‘Kathy, I’m lost,’ I said, though I knew she was sleeping. ‘I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.’”
I have a live recording of this song. Paul Simon is playing a huge concert in Central Park twenty-five years after he and Kathy broke up and when the audience hears the opening line they erupt in ecstatic applause. “Hurray!” they’re saying. “Tell us again about how Kathy’s love couldn’t fully satisfy you.”
A good deal of art is telling stories you’re not authorized to tell. I know I’ve hurt more than one girl who didn’t deserve it by writing about her in TMOPMO. My first year at Bard, my girlfriend came to visit me, and with pride I showed her all the plays I had written that semester. She was oddly (it seemed) unresponsive and it was only years later, when I went back and reread some of those old plays, that I realized they were all about her.
When I listen to these songs, I wonder about the Kathys and Cecilias and Emily whenever I may find hers, the Carrie Fishers and the Joe DiMaggios. How peculiar to know that somewhere out there someone you loved very much is singing a song about how you broke his heart, and someone else is applauding.