Browse by Title
A B C D E F G
H I J K L M N
O P Q R S T U
V W X Y Z #  




El Condor Pasa (If I Could)

by

Simon & Garfunkel



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song started out as an Andean folk melody that Paul Simon came across in 1969 when he played a week-long engagement at a theater in Paris along with the South American group Los Incas, who played an instrumental version of the song called "Paso Del Condor." Said Simon: "I used to hang around every night to hear them play that. I loved it and I would play it all the time, and then I thought, Let's put words to it."
The Peruvian songwriter Daniel Robles recorded this song in 1913, and copyrighted it in the United States in 1933 during his travels in America. When Simon recorded it with his added lyrics, he thought it was a traditional song, as that's what Los Incas told him. When Robles' son filed a lawsuit, Simon had to give Robles a composer credit on the song, with his estate getting those royalties.

In discussing the song, Simon always talks about it as being based on a traditional Peruvian song, and we've never heard him mention Robles. This wasn't the first time Simon got tangled over songwriting credits on traditional melodies: Simon & Garfunkel's Scarborough Fair / Canticle was based on a folk song, but his arrangement came from a singer named Martin Carthy. Simon was always clear on his influences, but legal misunderstandings were a problem in these cases.
Los Incas, who were the group that introduced Simon to the song, provided the instrumentation when they recorded it in Paris with Simon. Their leader, Jorge Milchberg, played a charango, which is an Andean string instrument made from the shell of an armadillo. Simon played acoustic guitar, and other members of Los Incas played flutes and percussion. When Simon brought the track to America, he added his lyrics. This was one of the easier songs to record for the Bridge Over Troubled Water album, since the backing track was already mixed together - it was just a matter of adding the vocals.
The title translates to English as "The Condor Passes." The lyrics Robles wrote to the song in 1913 are about returning home to his native Peru.
Los Incas leader Jorge Milchberg got a composer credit on this song along with Simon and Robles. Milchberg later became the head of the group Urubamba and remained friends with Simon, who toured with them and produced their first American album. (thanks, Kristy - La Porte City, IA)
Simon & Garfunkel
Simon & Garfunkel Artistfacts
More Simon & Garfunkel songs
More songs inspired by Folk songs
More songs that were also recorded in other languages
More songs with birds in the title
More songs involved in lawsuits

Comments (24):

Their partnership swansong-or, ahem, condor-song.Very lovely..coulda been longer.
- Steve, Whittier, CA
I am certain I heard this song in the end credits of MAD MEN
- Tony, Wilmette, IL
I sit here with, a friend, the granddaughter of Daniel Alomia Robles while listening to this beautiful work of her grand father who came to the U.S. around 1920 to have his wife treated for cancer. Mary Virginia Robles' father, Ernesto,, was only nine at the his daughtertime; he came to the U.S. a few months after his grandmother died. He had 13 sisters and brothers, many of whom came and stayed in the U.S.; a few returned to Peru. Ernest, as he was called in this country, remained, married and raised
- ADRIENNE, Port Washington, NY
Although I am not a native Spanish speaker, I do speak it with my father who is from Ecuador. The word "Pasa" is actually a form of the verb, "pasar", which means "to pass" -- it is not a noun. There are many ways you can use the verb "pasar" but in this sense, it means the condor passes from one area to another.. in other words, it's talking about the "Flight of the Condor." It is rephrased to make sense for English.
- Regina, Atlanta, GA
El Cóndor Pasa means ¨The Condor flies over¨ and it´s a beautiful Peruvian song, it takes me way back.....fantastic tune
Beno Albarran, Guadalajara, México
- BENO, GUADALAJARA, Mexico
Another great S&G song, but the vocal sound is terrible. You can't hear Paul Simon's opening words, and one part sung by Art Garfunkel is in such a high pitch that it sounds distorted and it's difficult to understand anything he's singing.
- David, Youngstown, OH
I'm no Spanish expert, but when someone says to me "Que pasa?", it loosely translates to "What's happening?". So therefore, I always kind of thought the title loosely translated to The Condor happens. Paso would be "happened", right? So what, the condor happens like s--t happens? That could spell disaster for some little jackrabbit in the desert! Hey, whatever. Either way, this is one of my all time favorites of Simon and Garfunkel. It sounds pretty Peruvian or more broadly Andean to me. Especially since I have some Andean folk music on a Monitor Records release that uses the Pan Flute pretty extensively. And the little Charango (a small guitar, but NOT a ukelele or a mandolin). This tune displays beautifully what made Simon and Garfunkel (and moreso Simon) so great! They helped otherwise stupid Americans learn to appreciate other types of music than just rock, blues and country. Now if only they would have reintroduced the masses to our very own Jazz!
- Jesse, Madison, WI
My 5 siblings and I were all really into music and would sometimes perform. The brother just older than me and I would do an "interpretive dance" to this song. Since he was older, he got to be all of the "I'd Rather Be's" and I, being youngest, got stuck with all of the "Than a's". I particularly disliked "I'd rather be a forest than a street". Incidentally, I was about 6 when we did this.
- Karen, Manchester, NH
They just had so many wonderful songs---this one among the rest.
- Harold, San Bernadino, CA
My oldest brother told me about this song, saying that it was a passive protest to conditions in Communist Soviet Union/Russia.
Rather be a sparrow than a snail... a sparrow is free and swift able to come and go as it pleases, a snail; slow and stupid.

Rather be a hammer than a nail... a hammer is the strength and a nail gets put in a place (pounded down by the hammer) and never moves and if it's pulled out it's usually not the same.

This bridge talks about simply the oppression of Communism, and the lament of the loss of freedom.
Away, I'd rather sail away
Like a swan that's here and gone
A man gets tied up to the ground
He gives the world its saddest sound
Its saddest sound


Rather be a forest than a street
A forest grows free and tall and isn't usually confined, a street gets aligned and is rigidly placed and usually gets trampled on.

Rather feel the earth beneath my feet
Feeling the earth beneath your feet is a symbolic synonym to being free.

Was told that this song was banned in the USSR... dunno if that was true or not... but it does make sense given the context of the lyrics... that and Simon being Jewish himself may have written the song to express sympathy for his brethren behind the Iron Curtain.
- Ralph, Chattanooga, TN
I once heard a band from Argentina break into this song about halfway through their set .
It was awsome !
- Rockie, Oregon City, OR
A truly Beautiful and Inspiring song. The lyrics are so emotive. Love it!
- jonn, liverpool, England
"El Condor Pasa" means "Condor Pass"
- Jonathan, Bradford, MA
The title: I think "El Condor Pasa" would be best translated by: "The Condor flies over". If you've ever seen a condor (an eagle would do) you know what i mean... they glide in the air motionless.
There is another reference to the effect these birds of pray make in John Denver's: Rocky Mountain High
- abel, buenos aires, Argentina
I believe "El Condor Pasa" translates to "the condor passes."
- Kate, Charlotte, NC
Does "El Condor Pasa" actually translate to, "If I Could"? Is it Spanish?
- Annabelle, Eugene, OR
An outstanding adaptation of a South American folk song. My favorite line is "I'd rather be a forest than a street." El Condor Pasa is one of Simon and Garfunkel's most underplayed gems.
- Howard, St. Louis Park, MN
La cancion el Condor Pasa es una de las mejores composiciones y melodia que podemos escuchar. Asi mismo esta cancion esta declarada como patrimnonio cultural del Peru, es un orgullo para mi que muchas personas podamos escucharlas siempre.
- Noelia, Peru, England
This song is one of the best of S&G. I like it that much because it's an original peruvian song, the most popular folkloric peruvian song. By the way, it is called "El Condor Pasa", not "El Paso del Condor", and it was writen by Daniel Robles around 1910. All the instruments used in the song are peruvian (almost all of them), like "la quena" (kind of flute) and "el charango", wich is a peculiar little guitar. The original song is instrumental (andean music), S&G wrote great lyrics for it! Robles family and S&G had to go to court because of the copyrights, at the end Robles family won because is a well known traditional peruvian song, since then any time you see the credits of this song in any S&G album, you´ll see (Daniel A. Robles).
- Willy Espinoza, Lima, Peru
Check out the CD "Music From Macchu Picchu." El Condor Pasa is the first track. My friend Alben, from Bolivia, looked at the track listing and told me about that El Condor Pasa is one of the most traditional Quechuan pieces from the Andes Mountains. This piece is MUCH older than you think.
- Jonathan, Bradford, MA
Actually, Robles made it famous and created the most commonly known arrangment, but its basis is a a traditional Quechua folk song from the Peruvian highlands. I believe it's Robles who's playing the quena flute on the S&G recording.
- NickC, Ft. Wayne, IN
Excellent song, a very haunting tune 1 of da best songs of S&G!
- Rajarshi, Dark Side Of The Moon, India
The originall peruvian song written by Daniel A. Robles, a peruvian musician, not by George Milchburg.
The folk anthem was declared Peruvian cultural patrimony after Paul tryed to "steal" it. (I know this because I´m half peruvian)
- paola, toronto, Canada
This song is beautiful. It has the most beautiful and haunting beat I have ever heard on a song. S&G really outdid themselves with this song.
- Sarah, Ottawa, Canada
You have to to post comments.
Henry McCulloughHenry McCullough
The only Irishman to play at Woodstock (backing Joe Cocker), Henry was an early member of Paul McCartney's band Wings.
Mike Love of The Beach BoysMike Love of The Beach Boys
The lead singer/lyricist of The Beach Boys talks about coming up with the words for "Good Vibrations," "Fun, Fun, Fun," "Kokomo" and other classic songs.
Rosanne CashRosanne Cash
Rosanne talks about the journey that inspired her songs on her album The River & the Thread, including a stop at the Tallahatchie Bridge.
Gym Class HeroesGym Class Heroes
Their drummer/songwriter with the story behind "Cupid's Chokehold," and how they handle Travie McCoy's solo success.