It went like this.
It was the late 80s. It was New York. And I had just moved into a beautiful building on Central Park West.
I was heading up the elevator with my brilliant five-year-old daughter. (If I were allowed to write about her, I would tell you just how brilliant she is.) The doors opened, and he got on.
Said 5yo started to stare – in that way you know is trouble. He was wearing a baseball cap. She peered under it and asked in all sincerity: “Are you a man?” He responded with both a glare and a “Why?” She answered openly, as only smart five-year-olds do: “Well you’re very short, so I’m not sure.”
You don’t need to worry. I, the mother of the brilliant 5yo, pulled it out: “We’re your new neighbors, and ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ was my high school graduation class song, and I think you are most talented songwriter of my generation alongside Barry Manilow of course.”
Needless to say, there was no reply and I never ran into him again, although I’m told he still lives there.
Paul is one serious guy, and, as a result, he doesn’t always interview well. But his interview with David Axelrod, who speaks way too slowly and thinks too methodically to be a great interviewer, is worth the listen. They had me at hello.
At 54:35, David asks him about politics, and Paul discusses a television special he did back in the day, which was being sponsored by AT&T. It was the only one he ever did. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was played behind footage from the funerals of Martin Luther King, Jr., President Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy.
“They told us we had to change that. We said, ‘Why’? And they said, ‘It’s not fair’. And, we said, ‘What’s not fair?’ And they said, ‘Well, they’re all Democrats.’ And we said, ‘Really? We think of them as all assassinated people.’”
I can’t get it out of my head. I really can’t, because it is such a brilliant example of how we have lost sight of everything that is important in our country today. Instead of asking ourselves if what is in front of us is right for the country, ourselves, and our children’s future, we just see who is placing it in front of us, and that’s the end of that.
In the interview, Paul goes on to talk about his classmate Andrew Goodman, who was killed in Mississippi working for Civil Rights. He talks about its effect on him.
Listen to his interview. You can’t spend a stronger hour.
God bless you please, Mrs. Robinson…
Going to the candidates’ debate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you’ve got to choose
Every way you look at it you lose
He was a prophet projecting then what is still true today. Thanks, Paul. Sorry about the elevator.
Postscript: I received this in an email after this posted, and I wanted to share it. Good Sunday morning. After reading the latest Freesia Lane, I have to share a story with you. I had a very dear friend at a boys’ school. He got in a fight with his father so went and joined the army at 17. His name was PD. His older brother and I were in the guitar group at our church. P got sent to Vietnam. I received regular letters from him – we were quite close. One Saturday morning, sun shining, beautiful summer Michigan day I received a letter. Pat was going out on a mission so couldn’t write for a while. In that letter, he asked us to learn the song Bridge Over Troubled Water and dedicate it in our hearts for the troops when we played it at mass. An hour later, his brother David came to the door to tell me Pat was MIA. I said impossible because I had just received a letter. It was the last one he wrote. Six weeks later, his body was recovered. We sang Bridge Over Troubled Water at his funeral. Of note, in all my tender 17 years, I had never seen my father take Holy Communion, he did at P’s funeral. I go to the Vietnam Memorial each time I am in DC for P. He died on July 20, 1970. My father died July 20, 2009.