Paul Simon Felt He Couldn’t Compete With Elvis Presley’s Cover of This Simon & Garfunkel Song

Paul Simon had a strong reaction when Elvis Presley covered one of Simon & Garfunkel’s songs. It made Simon look down on Simon & Garfunkel’s version of the track. Despite this, audiences seemed to prefer the original track to Elvis’ cover.

Elvis Presley near a plant
Elvis Presley | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Why Art Garfunkel didn’t perform vocals on 1 of Simon & Garfunkel’s most famous songs

Rolling Stone’s Jon Landau interviewed Simon in 1972. Simon discussed Simon & Garfunkel with hindsight. He revealed the duo didn’t always write their songs together. 

One of the songs Simon wrote on his own was “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” “‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ was written while [Garfunkel] was away,” Simon recalled. “He’d come back and I’d say, “Here’s a song I just wrote, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’ I think you should sing it.”

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Simon revealed why he provided vocals for “Bridge Over Troubled Water” while Art Garfunkel did not. “If I’d say, ‘We’ll do this with a gospel piano and it’s written in your key, so you have the song,’ it was his right in the partnership to say, ‘I don’t want to do that song,’ as he said with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,'” Simon recalled.

Elvis Presley recorded a ‘dramatic’ version of the song

Rolling Stone reports Simon later heard Elvis’ “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” He felt the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s interpretation of the track was dramatic. “But so was the song,” he added. “When I first heard Elvis perform ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ it was unbelievable. I thought to myself, ‘How the hell can I compete with that?'”

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The way the world reacted to Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and Elvis Presley’s version of the song

The public reacted to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and Elvis’ cover in very different ways. Simon & Garfunkel’s version became one of the duo’s greatest hits. It topped the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for 14 weeks. The song’s parent album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, topped the Billboard 200, remaining on the chart for 87 weeks. It was the most successful of Simon & Garfunkel’s albums.

Simon told Rolling Stone he found some solace in the fact that Simon & Garfunkel broke up after they released “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” “From that point of view, I’m delighted that I didn’t have to write a Simon & Garfunkel follow-up to ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,’ which I think would have been an inevitable let-down for people,” Simon said. “It would have been hard on me, hard on both of us.”

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Elvis released his cover of “Bridge over Troubled Water” on the album That’s the Way It Is. His version of the song did not become a single. That’s the Way It Is reached No. 21 on the Billboard 200, staying on the chart for 23 weeks. While Elvis’ “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was not a single, the cover moved Simon.