Covers – America

She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy, I said “Be careful, his bowtie is really a camera”

“America” is a song by Simon & Garfunkel, the iconic folk rock duo consisting of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. It’s featured as the centerpiece track on their fourth studio album, “Bookends,” which was released in 1968.

The album itself is known for its introspective and reflective themes, and “America” stands out as one of its most notable tracks. “America” captures the essence of youthful wanderlust, self-discovery, and the search for identity. The song narrates a journey taken by a couple named Kathy and the singer, who travel across the United States in an attempt to find a sense of belonging and meaning.

The lyrics delve into the ups and downs of the journey, touching on themes of freedom, adventure, and the complexities of relationships. The song’s narrative structure is built around a series of vignettes, painting vivid pictures of various locations and experiences encountered during the journey.

The imagery ranges from “Michigan seems like a dream to me now” to the “New Jersey Turnpike / They’ve all come to look for America.” The recurring refrain, “Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike / They’ve all come to look for America,” carries a sense of longing and disillusionment, suggesting that the search for America is not just about physical travel but also about searching for a deeper understanding of the nation’s identity.

Musically, “America” features Simon & Garfunkel’s signature harmonies and acoustic instrumentation. The gentle guitar strumming and the duo’s hauntingly beautiful vocals contribute to the song’s nostalgic and introspective atmosphere. The melody complements the reflective lyrics, creating a bittersweet yet hopeful tone.

“America/For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her (Live)” was written by Paul Simon and released as a single in December of 1972. The song was rearranged by the progressive rock band Yes in 1970, performing it in concert on the first tour after Steve Howe replaced Peter Banks.

Yes added elements typical to progressive rock, such as changes in time signature and long instrumental segments, while dropping the song’s original repeat and fade ending. At one point bassist Chris Squire quotes “America” from West Side Story in the intro.

The Yes studio version clocks in at ten and a half minutes, with live versions on the 1970–1971 tour extended to more than fifteen minutes. The studio recording first appeared in 1972 on the sampler album The New Age of Atlantic and was later included on the compilation album Yesterdays in 1975, the box set In a Word: Yes (1969–) in 2002, and on the 2003 re-issue of their album Fragile.

An edited version of this recording lasting 4 minutes was released as a single and hit No. 46 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

  • Jon Anderson – lead vocals
  • Steve Howe – guitars, backing vocals
  • Chris Squire – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Rick Wakeman – organ, synthesizer, mellotron
  • Bill Bruford – drums, percussion
America written by Paul Simon

"Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together
I've got some real estate here in my bag"
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies
And walked off to look for America

"Kathy", I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now"
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've gone to look for America

Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said "Be careful, his bowtie is really a camera"

"Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat"
"We smoked the last one an hour ago"
So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

"Kathy, I'm lost", I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America

Folk singer Bert Sommer, a member of the group the Left Banke, covered the song in the late 1960s, and he also performed the song at Woodstock in 1969.

David Bowie performed a minimalist version of the song to open The Concert for New York City in October 2001. Bowie performed seated on the floor, center stage, with a microphone and a Suzuki Omnichord.2001.

Bert Sommer
David Bowie
First Aid Kit

Further Reading


Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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