Jane Kelly Williams, a singer-songwriter friend from New York, is downstairs playing “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” on the piano. It’s a beautiful song, of course, yet one in danger of cliche. Who hasn’t covered the song, and in what style hasn’t it been done, since Simon and Garfunkel released it in 1970? I was 12, so I came into it about two years later. The song was a coda to their relationship, the last song recorded for their last album together, and the gospel feel that it had — which I am hearing now — lent it to appropriation by many a Gospel singer, from the quartets I used to hear with my aunt before I was hijacked by pop music in 1972, when I was 14, to bluegrass and country artists, like Buck Owens. The song won five awards at the 13th Annual Grammy Awards in 1971, including Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Well deserved. I still have the LP of the same title. But Jane is on to James Taylor, “You’ve Got a Friend,” and “(In My Mind I’m) Going to Carolina.”
I’m going to feed the birds. I just looked out the window and realized that our feeder is empty. Our hospitality is lacking, birds content to sail on by. I get up, intent on doing something about it. On the way, I check the mailbox and find an envelope with a dollar bill inside it. I said a couple days ago, when the high school girls failed to leave my change in the mailbox, “I give up on high school kids, this town, the country, and the universe, in that order. Excepting God.” I was hasty, I admit.
The birds are watching. They cock their heads to the side and withhold judgment. “I am forgetful,” I say. “I’m on your side.” They are forgiving, I sense, as they continue their songs. I can hear the music out here, in the yard, but they, better than me. “Your Song.” Elton John. It’s like a Sirius XM 70s, without disco.
I walk back in, through the sticking gate in the fence. Jane and my wife are laughing. Dinner is on, and I wait, the sound of Carole King taking me on, sailing right behind.