One of my earliest childhood memories is of my mother doing housework. It sounds mundane enough, but my 2-year-old self didn’t see the sweatpants or rubber gloves; I saw an elegant lady with perfectly coiffed blonde hair and glamorous makeup. I saw her effortlessly flitting about the house like some magical cleaning fairy, when in reality she was probably just drudging through the weekly chores. But what I do remember perfectly is that every Tuesday –– cleaning day –– she would play Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits CD, singing along to her favorite song, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
Sail along silver girl/Sail on by/Your time has come to shine
One of my earliest memories of my little brother, two years younger than me, is of the two of us bouncing between playing and bickering in the back seat on road trips. My dad liked to play Elvis, The Eagles, Van Halen –– but my mom knew the only way to get us straight to sleep: that same Greatest Hits CD. After a round of my baby brother singing every 10th word of “Homeward Bound” (“HOME! Bah da ba da ba da HOME! Bah da ba da ba da HOME!”), we would immediately doze off to the dulcet and familiar tones.
Home, where my thought’s escaping/Home, where my music’s playing/Home, where my love lies waiting silently for me
I grew up loving Simon & Garfunkel, obviously. I associated their music with family, vacations, holidays, adolescence –– just about every milestone in my life. When I graduated high school, my dad and brother made a DVD photo montage of my life, and much of it was set to S&G. My boyfriend clumsily played “April Come She Will” for me the night before he left to study abroad in France –– the very same night when he first told me he loved me. I even hold movies that feature their songs in immediately higher esteem: “The Only Living Boy in New York” in Garden State, “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” in The Royal Tenenbaums, not to mention the entire soundtrack and score of The Graduate, which is, probably not surprisingly, my all-time favorite movie.
Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?/Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you
My very first Jazz Fest was in 2006, not yet a year after Katrina. And who was the only act I wanted to see? The legendary Paul Simon. I couldn’t believe I was going to see my favorite songwriter in person. It was only fitting that one of my greatest passions would bring me to what would become another of my greatest passions: Jazz Fest. I cried at most of the songs Simon played that day, but none more than the sadly timely “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which he sang with Irma Thomas.
When you’re weary/Feeling small/When tears are in your eyes/I will dry them all
The next year I ventured to Columbus, Ga., to see Art Garfunkel in concert. He was phenomenal. At this point I had seen the two components of my favorite band separately and accepted the fact that I’d never see them together. Fortunately for me, I underestimated Jazz Fest. After seeing Paul Simon, I’ve yet to miss a fest. Every year brought something personally exciting: Counting Crows; Billy Joel; and another all-time favorite, James Taylor. I expected the 2010 Fest to disappoint; after all, how could they top it again?
It seemed too good to be true that all of my great loves would be coming together: S&G, Jazz Fest, the city of New Orleans itself: I can’t help but draw a parallel between what I love about all of them. All three are now so familiar; I’ve grown up loving both the music and the city, feeling comforted by them, having fun with them, and thinking I knew all there was to know about them.
Slow down/You move too fast/You’ve got to make the morning last
When I saw Simon & Garfunkel perform on Saturday, in inexplicably sunny weather that defied every forecast, I not only cried with my mother and brother and boyfriend at all of our favorite songs but also couldn’t help but draw another parallel between my favorite band and favorite city.
I get the news I need on the weather report/Ah, I can gather all the news I need on the weather report/Hey, I’ve got nothing to do today but smile
Art Garfunkel had apparently been sick. His voice was hoarse, and he apologized for not being well, saying he almost didn’t make it at all. But he said he’d try his best. And the notoriously contentious duo continued the set in a very unexpected way: with Simon patting him on the back supportively; holding his hand in triumph after he struggled to hit the notes; hugging him with words of encouragement when he gave it his all; standing back respectfully to let him sing, albeit with difficulty, his famed solo at the end of “Bridge.” I was moved by the undying support they had for each other, but more than that, I was moved by how the fans, the Jazz Fest crowd, showed unwavering love for Art, even when he struggled. We cheered, chanted his name and beckoned him to sing more after he took breaks. He seemed genuinely surprised and touched by the spirit of New Orleans.
Like a bridge over troubled water/I will lay me down
I’ve seen that support before –– the people of New Orleans don’t give up love or support or fandom just because of a struggle. Even when we should be let down, even when our city is next to gone, we still cheer and chant its name and beckon for more. That’s why we didn’t cancel Carnival in 2006. That’s why we didn’t miss a Jazz Fest.
All my life, I thought I knew everything about my favorite band and my favorite city. And it just goes to show that you can always be surprised by true character. I can’t wait for New Orleans (and Jazz Fest) to keep surprising me.
Jordan DeFrank is an editorial assistant at Renaissance Publishing. She grew up in Mandeville, La., and graduated from LSU in 2009 with a print journalism major and an English minor, though she likes to think she’s an English major at heart. She was a writer for LSU’s Legacy Magazine and while she will always love her Tigers and the parade grounds, she is now devoted to New Orleans’ iced coffee, Bloody Marys and Drew Brees.