Why Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs. Robinson’ Mentions Joe DiMaggio When He Wasn’t Paul Simon’s ‘Favorite Guy’

One of the most famous classic rock songs of the 1960s is Simon & Garfunkel‘s “Mrs. Robinson.” During an interview, Paul Simon explained why “Mrs. Robinson” mentions Joe DiMaggio. Simon revealed he wasn’t the biggest fan of DiMaggio, but he had an “attachment” to the baseball icon because of the song.

Paul Simon of Simon & Garfunkel holding a guitar
Paul Simon of Simon & Garfunkel | Keystone/Getty Images

Paul Simon went up to Joe DiMaggio in a restaurant and said he wrote Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs. Robinson’

“Mrs. Robinson” is about the character of the same name from the classic comedy-drama The Graduate. The lyrics of “Mrs. Robinson” contain a reference to DiMaggio (“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio/Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you”) which seems like a non-sequitur. According to a 2014 article from PageSix, Simon discussed the song in an interview with MSG’s “The Game 365.”

During the interview, Simon recalled crossing paths with DiMaggio in a restaurant. “I happened to be in a restaurant and there he was,” Simon said. “I gathered up my nerve to go over and introduce myself and say, ‘Hi, I’m the guy that wrote ‘Mrs. Robinson.'”

DiMaggio was skeptical at first. “He said ‘Yeah, sit down … Why’d you say that? I’m here, everyone knows I’m here,'” DiMaggio recalled. “I said, ‘I don’t mean it that way — I mean, where are these great heroes now?’ He was flattered once he understood that it was meant to be flattering.”

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Why Simon & Garfunkel didn’t mention Micky Mantle in the lyrics of ‘Mrs. Robinson’

Simon discussed the impact of him mentioning DiMaggio in “Mrs. Robinson.” “Can you imagine, just the irony of it, I write this line, I don’t know where it comes from, about a ballplayer who I know is really famous but he’s not my favorite guy — and I end up, number one, writing one of the main obituaries … and then singing the song in centerfield at Yankee Stadium [at a DiMaggio tribute in 1999],” Simon said. “I mean, our attachment was so powerful because of that song.” Simon told Micky Mantle he could have used his name instead, except his name did not have the right number of syllables.

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The way listeners in the United States and the United Kingdom reacted to the song

“Mrs. Robinson” became a huge hit. The song was No. 1 for three weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. “Mrs. Robinson” remained on the chart for 13 weeks altogether. Simon & Garfunkel released “Mrs. Robinson” on the critically acclaimed album Bookends. Bookends reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for seven weeks of its 66-week run on the chart.

“Mrs. Robinson” was popular in the United Kingdom as well. According to The Official Charts Company, the track hit No. 4 there and stayed on the chart for 12 weeks. Meanwhile, Bookends was No. 1 for seven weeks of its 77 weeks on the chart. The song became a classic folk-rock tune and it wouldn’t be the same without its reference to DiMaggio.

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