Daily Song Study

Paul Simon – American Tune (live)

In songs on August 24, 2011 at 9:16 am

I don’t like playing favorites, but there is something about hearing today’s tune that always leaves me dumbstruck, thinking how in the world could anyone ever write another song this great, and how the hell did someone write a song that perfect in the first place?

The lyrics, the melody, the chord progression, the mood, everything appears as if it could be no other way. Of course being a songwriter, I know the various iterations that tunes go through on their way to being born, and so it boggles me to think of the construction process here. It has no chorus per se, simply a few repeating lines here and there, and an unusually elongated bridge. The magic is in the interplay between all the elements.

Like many, I have a bucket list, and learning this song is on it. Which is harder than it sounds, especially when I live in fear of messing up something that I consider absolutely perfect.

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  1. […] admitted before that my favorite song is by Paul Simon, but my favorite album of all time is easily The Final Cut by Pink Floyd. As I’ve written, […]

  2. You’re actually in really good company on this one, though. The main melody line is based on a chorale from J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion (which he stole from a German secular ‘love’ song by Hans Leo Hassler). No honor among composers, huh? I still smile when I hear this song in church (it’s still in the Episcopal hymnal…). It’s an amazing re-use of the voicing and progression, though. Simon, definitely does a great job here and the performance is spot on.

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