Paul Simon presents a grim solemnity as he croons his old tune, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, for the convened Democrats yesterday in Philadelphia. In sharing with them this classic, well-loved anthem that he wrote, Paul imparts a sense of profound desperation. But the weary, hopeless person whose dire circumstance is so poetically described in the song receives, in the end, a deliverance. Hope shines through when a caring friend intervenes.
Paul’s tender message of friendship is well-received by the Democrats. They take the inspiration to heart by joining in, and swaying to the music’s gentle rhythm.
While viewing this scene on YouTube yesterday, I noticed Paul’s grave countenance, and I was a little surprised by the obvious aging that has reshaped his face. Many years ago, I was greatly moved–as many of my boomer generation were– by his poetic, prophetic songs. Here is one from back in the day, for which he is perhaps most well-known:
That was Paul Simon then, in 1965; but this is now, 2016. The world seems to be a very different place.
Yesterday in Philadelphia, the assembled Democrats responded empathetically to Paul’s solemn presentation of Bridge over Troubled Waters.
But We Americans are a diverse collection of people. Those communitarian Democrats represent a certain segment of our population. There is, however, another strain of us Americana whose emphasis is not so much on community and everybody getting together to solve society’s problem. I’m talking about the rugged individualists.
About the same time–mid 1960’s–that Paul Simon was so profoundly poeticizing our youthful alienation, there was– on the golden horizon of seasoned celebrity– another very popular singer. He was a smooth crooner whose older, mellowing generational zeitgeist had arisen from a very different historical time and circumstance.
Here’s a clip of Frank Sinatra, the original crooner a la 1940’s, as he belts out the song that became a theme for many, many Americans of his generation. It is a tune that expresses the determination and perseverance of his generation–the same generation that ran the Nazis and the Fascists back into their holes over there in old Europe.
Ole Blue Eyes Frank made it big during his given time. Back in his day it was all about celebrating the good times that settled in after the War, getting all dressed up, having a few drinks, and laughing.
A couple of decades later, the sensitive poet Simon, like Dylan and others, came along, touching the troubled nerve of a booming generation that couldn’t seem to find its place in that old way of viewing the world.
So, seeing yesterday, ole Paul as he lead the communitarians in wailing that tender tune–this had an meaningful impact on me. Finding myself now in a never-never land between two obese political parties, I am alienated, wandering, looking for the party, but unable to find one that celebrates what I know to be true.
Stranger in a strange country, I wonder as I wander. . . out under the darkening sky.
But every now and then I encounter something or someone that partly expresses what I dimly discern in this land of troubled waters– a stubborn, though fragile, life that is draped in mystery, yet with occasional glimpses of our sure mortality, and a hopeful longing for immortality.