"America", written by Paul Simon, is a song recorded by Simon & Garfunkel. It was included in their album Bookends, released on 3 April 1968. It was also released in 1971 as the B-side to "Keep The Customer Satisfied" (a United States promo-only release), then again as a single in 1972 to coincide with the album Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits, reaching #97 on theBillboard Hot 100, the flip side of the single, "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her", reaching #53.
- 2 Reception
- 3 Cover versions
- 4 References
The words describe a trip east through the United States, two lovers hitch-hiking from Saginaw, Michigan to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and then catching a Greyhound bus through the New Jersey Turnpike to New York City, "looking for America", their initial hopefulness turning to angst and sadness. The lyric names Kathy Chitty, with whom Simon had had a relationship while living in England in 1965.
It is written in blank verse, a rarity for popular songs.
In 2000, "America" was featured in the soundtrack to the film Almost Famous. The main character's sister, Anita, uses this song to represent her reason for leaving home to become a stewardess.
Subsequent compilation CDs contain the single mix of the song, which features a clean introduction (as opposed to the version on Bookends, which segues from the song that precedes it on the album, "Save the Life of My Child").
|UK Singles Chart||25|
|US Billboard Hot 100||97|
|Song by Yes from the album The New Age of Atlantic|
|Length||10:30 (album version)
4:12 (single version)
|Label||Atlantic Records K20024|
|Producer||Yes and Eddie Offord|
|The New Age of Atlantic track listing|
The song was rearranged by the progressive rock band Yes in 1971. 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 complete Yes version clocks in at ten and a half minutes. This 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 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 #46 on the pop chart. It also appeared on the Yesyears and Yesstory boxed sets, along with The Ultimate Yes: 35th Anniversary Collection. The edited version was also included as a bonus track on the re-issue of Close to the Edge. A live version of the song was included on 1996's Keys to Ascension.
The original version of "America" came from the band Clouds. In their earlier incarnation as 1-2-3, they had performed a re-written version of the song that included all the elements later used by Yes: changes in time signature, classical interludes, newly-written segments etc. A live tape exists of this being performed at the Marquee in April 1967, prior to the release of any known recording by any artist, including the writer himself. Paul Simon had recorded demos at Levy studios in London in 1965, and tapes of these were passed to the band by a studio engineer (Stu Francis of Radio Luxembourg). In 1966, 1-2-3 also performed Sounds of Silence from this same tape.
A memorably minimalist performance of it was given by David Bowie to open The Concert for New York City in October 2001. Bowie performed seated, centre stage, with a microphone and a Suzuki Omnichord. Bowie was actually in attendance at the Marquee during 1967 when 1-2-3 (later Clouds) performed this song. He was a friend of Billy Ritchie, the keyboard player/writer, and the band were also at the time, playing a song by a then-unknown David Bowie, I Dig Everything.
Tenor Josh Groban recorded it on his live album, Live at The Greek. He also played it at the A Capitol Fourth concert on July 4, 2011. Vocalist Alyssa Graham replaces Simon’s “Kathy” with "Douglas" in her version, the leadoff track on her 2008 album Echo. Lucy Wainwright Roche plays it, together with The Roches, at her 2010 album Lucy. The band America also released a recording of the song on their 2011 album Back Pages. The Swedish sister duo First Aid Kitperformed the song in honor of Paul Simon at the 2012 Polar Music Prize award ceremony, which earned them a standing ovation from Paul Simon himself.