As The Music Plays #2

This is a series of posts about the music I play while writing. Today I’m discussing number three on my list — The Boxer.

The Boxer was released in 1969 by Simon and Garfunkel as a single and later included on the album, Bridge over Troubled Water.  I was about ten years old when I first heard this song and all I remember was that I liked it and my friends didn’t.  There’s a melancholy flavor to the song as it sings about being poor and lonely.  A better label would be a ballad, but you could also call it a lament.  It also has a certain unfinished quality to it.  However you want to classify it, I’ve always been drawn to it.

Part of the attraction has been that there are times when I see myself in the words — especially when I feel lonely or when things just don’t seem to be going right.  The song, has a way to turn my mind to contemplation.  It’s place early in my play list is due to the story telling and the way it just turns my mind to thinking and trying to fill in the missing pieces in the story of the song.

One of the strange parts of the song have always been with the last verse where, suddenly, we’re in a clearing with a boxer.  What happened to the story of the poor workman trying to survive?  Did the workman become the fighter or was the workman always the fighter?  Perhaps this section is just a metaphorical retelling of the first part of the story.

Simon has said in interviews that the song is somewhat autobiographical as it was written at a time when he felt like everyone was attacking him.  When listening to it in my teens, I have to say that it resonated with me because I felt like everyone was beating me up for no reason.  I suppose many teens feel that way.

Listening to it again in my older years, I sense an unfinished quality to the song, the “lie-la-lie” refrain lasts longer than one would expect.  Of course, “lie” could be a hidden meaning.  The workman was clearly lied to about his prospects in the big city and the fighter is lying to himself about his trade.  Simon has said that wasn’t in his mind and the “lie-la-lie” was just a place holder for lyrics he hadn’t completed — just a simple case of writer’s block.  In the end they just kept the placeholder and added music to support it.  In a way it works, but I’ve wondered what else Simon might have written.

There are many great lines in the song such as, “Still a man hears what he wants to hear / And disregards the rest …”

I do have a great liking for Simon’s lyrics and have several of his songs on my play list.  

Here’s the version I listen to:

A final note that I’m taking a poetry class for the next couple of months so I’ll be reducing the number of posts I do until I finish that.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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26 Responses to As The Music Plays #2

  1. Love this, I haven’t listened to S&G for so long. Wonderful songs! So calming, right. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  2. On my playlist! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post and song! Have fun in the class!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love that one, too – in fact, I can’t think of any Simon and Garfunkel song I *don’t* like. Thanks for bringing this one to mind again! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh yes, I also enjoyed Simon and Garfunkel and actually owned that album. I remember that song very well and sang along with it as I listened to your video. Like many of their songs, it had an almost haunting quality about it and being a moody teenager at the time, it really appealed to me. (Still does!)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dave says:

    This is a formative song for me, Andrew. I credit my older brother for my “forced education” on Simon and Garfunkel and other singers of the 1970’s. My brother spent all of his savings on LP’s (and I didn’t) so he commanded the home stereo every afternoon after school. The song is instantly recognizable even if the lyrics aren’t. I’m guessing my teenage attention span only picked up on the music and not the words.

    I hope you’ll continue to cover early S and G music because Simon’s writing was in a class all by itself. Or at least an era all by itself.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A good examination of the song Andrew, and have fun in your poetry class

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love when songs tell stories. I am also a great fan of Paul Simon because of the depth of his lyrics. One of my other favorites is “Slip Slidin’ Away”. He has a way of expressing what many of us are feeling in our souls. Thank you for your interpretation of “The Boxer”. It is, indeed, a classic.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. jfwknifton says:

    “I liked it and my friends didn’t”…..what is there not to like? It’s a wonderful song, one of his best in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My friends at the time were into “Rock and Roll” and anything that seemed “Folk” they didn’t like without listening to it. These days most of those friends now prefer Folk.

      This is a great song by Simon and reading about the production of it shows how much effort he put into it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Milena Alien says:

    I love the song

    Liked by 1 person

  11. SusanR says:

    These guys did some great songs. I never knew the lie-la-lie was replacing lyrics never written!

    Liked by 1 person

    • As I dig into the music I listen to, I’m interested to find how many songs the artist’s say are really unfinished. For example, “Wichita Lineman” sung by Glen Campbell was sent to him by the writer Jimmy Webb who had labeled the demo tape as “Unfinished.” Campbell bought the unfinished version and made it famous.


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