Changing the world, a Garfunkel at a Time


This is the first in a 3-part serial story about Youth, Truth and Beauty. It is a true story.

Remember being young? When you not only knew what was wrong with the world, (mean people) you knew how to change it? (Sing lovely songs, accompanied by guitar. Acoustic.)

The year I turned twelve, Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ hit the charts. For the months that it rode the wave of popular public opinion, my little yellow transistor radio lived next to my right ear, tuned to WCFL or, in a pinch, WLS Chicago. Any given night would find me sobbing into my pillow with the beauty, the absolute truth and perfect rightness of The Song. Why, my 5th grade self cried to the universe, ‘WHY AREN”T YOU LISTENING, UNIVERSE?’ Sing this song and hate will evaporate faster than babysitting money at the Bonne Bell counter of Walgreens.

But nothing gold can stay. That capricious and amorphous people-group known as ‘pop music fans’ turned their collectively ungrateful backs on the bridge, cavorted across the troubled water, and flocked to a silly, meaningless little ditty called ‘Let it Be.’

‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ bowed out gracefully. It played here, sometimes there, then hardly anywhere. I was bereft. But only for as long as it took to save up enough to buy my own album.*

Eventually, and in spite of the mishap noted in the footnote, the authentic ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ album was mine. Simon and Garfunkel, the two greatest guys in the history of music, were my obsession. I read everything I could find about them. A challenging task— they were not the sort of heartthrobs featured in Tiger Beat. (Being from the same irascible hairstyle school as Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Stephen Sondheim.) But I soon discovered that Paul and Art had released previous albums, and joy hit a second time.

I found ‘Sounds of Silence.’
I listened to ‘Sounds of Silence.’
I wept over ‘Sounds of Silence.’

The world had missed the chance for goodness and truth when it deserted ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,’ but the world had been given a second chance.
It was up to me to resurrect the song that would change Everything.

Here, though, was the rub. ‘Sounds of Silence’ had been off the charts for 48 months (in pop-music years, as distant as the days of Wild Bill Hickok). How could I get the world to listen? To sing along in perfect harmony and end wars and rumors of wars?

The world, its ideals of “liberty, equality, fraternity“ battered and bloodied, must have sensed someone at the ready, wielding a melodious bottle of iodine and gauze pad of gentle lyrics. Mangled yet hopeful, the aching world observed my dozen years of accumulated wisdom, my perfectly memorized ‘Sounds of Silence’ lyrics, and dropped a plum in my lap.

Our Calvinette troupe would be hosting the statewide Calvinette banquet.


Next week, please come back to learn what a Calvinette is and how this particular Calvinette took on mankind’s evils single-guitaredly.

*This occurred only after a rather ugly incident in our family annals. I was a rock music neophyte, and a secret one at that. My mother thought I was listening to Cubs games on the transistor, and Dad, who hated ‘the devil’s music’—anything with a beat— assumed I had it tuned to ‘Boys and Girls for Jesus,’ or ‘Unshackled.’

33 (and 1/3, although us cool-types called them just ’33’s’) LP albums had danced just outside the reach of my pocket change. Then I saw an album with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ blazoned across the top at Zayres’ department store. A mere 1.99.
I could almost afford that.

After borrowing .99 from my parents, I bought it, bore it home, put it on the turntable, and promptly and unprettily broke into a million little pieces.
Along with a whole bunch of other songs they stole from other singers. Sort of like Ray Conniff but worse. Much worse.
After my hysteria at this colossal  betrayal had passed (1 week) and I’d picked the shards of broken vinyl from my sheets, carpet, shoes, PJ’s and Harlequin romance—I wasn’t the only thing that broke into a million pieces that day—I began saving babysitting money again (.50/hr., which in the Douman Children case came to a bit under 17 cents per monster) to buy the real and genuine S&G BOTW.

15 thoughts on “Changing the world, a Garfunkel at a Time

  1. You could have heard me singing both songs–acoustically–at the Dorf Haus Restaurant in Roxbury, WI in the 1980s. Favorites of mine and mine listeners. Along with James. Taylor, of course. And Carly. You know, Simon. Oh–don’t forget Karen and Richard! A bit later, Seals and Croft. Yep, change the world one ear at a time.

  2. Such fun memories! I can see through your 5th grade eyes. It brings back memories of my own music at that age. Pink Floyd’s The Wall and old Eagles albums touched on the youthful angst I felt, but offered no peaceful solutions to either my personal nor the world’s woes. It sure was great music though! I can’t wait to find out what exactly a Calvinette is. 🙂

  3. BOTW, an old green blanket and an orange teflon pan were the only communal items hubby brought in the marriage. And why do I go around singing “I am just a poor boy”? Of course the 70s Eagles can do little wrong and on the way to LaCrosse last weekend we heard both John Denver and PPM sing Leaving on a Jet Plane. I too saved up allowance to buy singles and some albums.

  4. Pingback: Changing…Garfunkel… | The Tuesday Prude

  5. Well, that was a trip down memory lane. I too grew up in the Chicago area listening to WCFL and WLS — much to my parents’ chagrin; Lawrence Welk was more their speed. I took it as given that parents would always hate whatever it was their teenage kids liked, and vice versa. I nearly had heart failure when my kids became teenagers, and I caught them listening to — gasp! — Simon and Garfunkel, The Moody Blues, The Beatles, The Lovin’ Spoonful, and Pink Floyd. Turned out almost everyone in their peer group loved that stuff. Guess they didn’t get the memo about hating whatever it was your parents loved.

    I remember babysitting for fifty cents an hour, too; it was about the best wage available at the time for those of us too young to get real jobs. How I envied my older sister, who made a buck and a quarter an hour as a bank teller! Oh, and I remember Calvinettes as well, although I was not one myself, since our family was Baptist; most of the girls in my class at school were Calvinettes. I had to settle for being a Pioneer Girl.

    • Nothing like shared memories! My husband looked at me blankly when I mentioned the Chicago call letters.
      And you know what? My youngest loves all my old favorites too! (we both really really like Led Zeppelin)
      When I told him I still have my albums from the early 70’s—somewhere—he encouraged me to tear the house apart to find them.
      I hate to let him see how scratched they are…

  6. Pingback: Garfunkel isn’t all you need | The Tuesday Prude

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