Wedding Song


 Wedding Song

The most popular wedding song when Barbara and I got married 50 years ago was “We’ve Only Just Begun.” With an insidiously catchy melody and greeting card lyrics (“We've only just begun to live / White lace and promises / A kiss for luck and we're on our way”), it had been a mega hit for The Carpenters, a brother-sister duo with wholesome good looks. But we didn’t want pop pap as our wedding song. In fact, we didn’t even want a wedding. We went through with one to appease our parents, who might have committed mass suicide if we had just moved in together right after college. And so in what in retrospect appears to have been a compensatory act of symbolic defiance, we opted for an unconventional wedding song, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Just how unconventional became obvious when we met with the leader of the band Barbara’s parents had hired to play at the wedding. His name was Mickey Silver, a middle-aged swinger in French cuffs, tinted glasses, a shaggy but expensive haircut, and a jewelry counter worth of bling. I remember there was a discussion about the mix of music the band would play so as to avoid alienating any particular generation among the guests. And then Mickey Silver asked about our choice of wedding song. “Bridge over Troubled Water,” I said. His face collapsed. “Why would you want that?!” he exclaimed, sounding genuinely perplexed.

The simplest answer was the one we gave: “Because we like it.” We liked the poetry of Paul Simon’s lyrics (“Oh, when darkness comes / and pain is all around / like a bridge over troubled water / I will lay me down”) and the angelic quality of Art Garfunkel’s singing.

But there was more to it than that. The song also expressed our basic outlook. We understood that love offered no guarantee of protection from the vagaries of life – that lace can get torn and dingy, and promises be broken or go unfulfilled. I don’t know how two hippie kids as guileless and stoned as we were had acquired even this small amount of worldly insight, but it wouldn’t be long before events would prove just how appropriate our wedding song was.

Mere months into our married life, Barbara would suffer the first in a series of miscarriages. There would follow a decade-long struggle, punctuated by tears, rages, and failed operations, to have a child. These were also years of graduate school poverty, when we would search under couch cushions for loose change so we could afford to go out for pizza. Later, there would be frequent upheavals because of job changes. And later still, there would be six brutal weeks of radiation treatment for a rare cancer.

Despite his misgivings, Mickey Silver (on keyboards) would end up leading his band in a passable version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at our wedding reception. As Barbara and I clung to each other on the dance floor, the guests smiled approvingly at us from their assigned tables, either unfazed by the melancholy undercurrent of the song or disinclined to recognize it.

In the years since, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” has been celebrated as a masterpiece of popular music. The song has been covered by everyone from Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin to the Jackson Five. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it 66th among the 100 greatest songs of all time. It has also been adopted as an anthem by progressive causes.

The song has only accrued additional symbolic meaning throughout our married life. Each of us at different periods has been the other’s “bridge over troubled water.” I’m not a perfect or even patient person. Neither quite is Barbara. But that is kind of the point. We have been more perfect together than we ever would have been apart

Our children – we ended up having four, two boys and two girls – and their spouses gave us a framed print of the lyrics as a 50th anniversary gift, the words arranged in a spiral like the grooves in a spinning 45. Centered underneath them in bold type is

Our First Dance

Barbara & Howie

May 28, 1973


And, of course, we catch the song now and then on oldies stations on the car radio. “Hey,” one of us will say, “it’s our song.” We will listen in silence to Paul Simon’s poignant lyrics (“When you’re weary / feeling small / when tears are in your eyes / I will dry them”) propelled by Art Garfunkel’s dramatic singing, and I will think with a sense of vindication, “What a fucking great wedding song.”

Howie Good

Howie Good's latest book, Frowny Face (Redhawk Publishing, 2023), is a mix of his prose poems and handmade collages. He co-edits the online journal UnLost, dedicated to found poetry.



Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post