Cecilia

Album: Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
Charted: 4
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  • Lyrics
  • This song is about a guy who had a girlfriend, but then she broke up with him. Like it says in one of the verses, "I got up to wash my face, when I come back to bed someone's taken my place." But later on they get back together - "Jubilation, she loves me again."

    No too much should be read into the lyrics of this song. As Paul Simon explained in an interview with Rolling Stone: "Every day I'd come back from the studio, working on whatever we were working on, and I'd play this pounding thing. So then I said, 'Let's make a record out of that.' So we copied it over and extended it double the amount, so now we have three minutes of track, and the track is great. So now I pick up the guitar and I start to go, 'Well, this will be like the guitar part' - dung chicka dung chicka dung, and lyrics were virtually the first lines I said: 'You're breakin' my heart, I'm down on my knees.' They're not lines at all, but it was right for that song, and I like that. It was like a little piece of magical fluff, but it works." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Lisa - Palatine, IL
  • In the Catholic church, Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians. In this context, the song can be interpreted as the singer asking for musical guidance, possibly to help writing a song. Paul Simon says he can't remember the specific inspiration when he was writing the song, but he knew Cecilia is the goddess of music. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Peter - L.A., CA
  • According to the liner notes to Paul Simon's Anthology album, the strange sounding rhythm to this particular track was Paul and Art slapping their thighs, while Paul's brother Eddie thumped a piano bench and a friend named Stewie Scharff strummed a guitar with its strings slackened to the point of atonality. This all happened at a house Paul and Art were living in on Blue Jay Way in the summer of 1969, not long after the Charles Manson murders took place at the nearby home of the actress Sharon Tate. After they started the pounding and came up with the rhythm, they got out their Sony reel-to-reel tape recorder and made the recording. There was a 1:15 section that Simon thought was great, so they looped it in the studio, which wasn't easy in 1969 - you had to actually cut out the tape and put it on the recorder in a loop. Their producer Roy Halee added some reverb, and they had their basic backing track from this home recording. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Nick - Auckland, New Zealand
  • Worked into the mix is the sound of drumsticks falling on the parquet floor of the Columbia Records studio in Los Angeles. Simon also played a bit of xylophone that was heavily processed and added to the track. They had a lot of fun recording it and were enjoying various experiments in sound.
  • When the Bridge Over Troubled Water album was finished, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and Roy Halee all thought this would be the first single, as catchy, upbeat songs were typically chosen to introduce a new album. Columbia Records president Clive Davis decided that the powerful, plaintive title track needed to be the album's calling card, so he bucked convention and released that one as the first single instead. It was a shrewd move: "Bridge Over Troubled Water" went to #1 for six weeks an propelled the album to the top as well - it spent a total of 10 weeks at #1. "Cecilia" was issued as the second single.
  • In 1996 Suggs, the lead singer for Madness, teamed up with vocal duo Louchie Lou and Michie One to record a cover that peaked at #4 in the UK. This is the only time the song reached the Top 75 in Britain as surprisingly Simon & Garfunkel's original 1970 single failed to chart there.
  • The Swedish pop group Ace Of Base recorded a song called "Cecilia" on their 1998 album Flowers that was based on the character in this song.
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Comments: 43

  • Roy from SloughWhy does Paul Simon feel the need to get up & wash his face after making love in the afternoon. What's he been up to?
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn June 24th 1970, the Paramount Pictures movie 'Catch-22' opened in theaters across the U.S.A. and Canada...
    Art Garfunkel co-starred in the movie, he portrayed Capt. Nately...
    At the time Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia" was in its second of two weeks at #20 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; exactly one month earlier on May 24th, 1970 it had peaked at #4 {for 1 week} and it stayed on the chart for 13 weeks...
    The song was track three of side one from the duo's fifth and final studio album, 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', and on March 1st, 1970 the album reached #1 {for 10 weeks} on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart, it also peaked at #1 in Australia, Canada, Holland, France, Japan, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Germany, and the United Kingdom...
    Three other tracks from the album also made the Top 100 chart; "The Boxer" {#7}, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" {#1 for 6 weeks}, and "El Condor Pasa" {#18}.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyThis was the final S&G single (until the 1975 reunion single "My Little Town"). Paul knew that S&G would be going their separate ways after this album, at least for awhile, and wanted their last song to be this happy, uptempo silly song, rather than the super-serious "Bridge Over Troubled Water". It also was more representative of the S$G two-part harmony "sound"; "Bridge" was almost completely Art's solo vocal.
  • Ceci from Miami, Fla long time ago when i was in 5th grade the music teacher played this repeatedly like 7 times. I got really embarrassed because everyone was starring at me....
  • Ceci from Miami, FlThat's my name! I was named after St. Cecilia and after this song!
  • Patrick from Angleton, TxDoes anyone know of a musical that includes this song "Cecilia"? A friend of mine has a version of this song on her iPod. The mp3 was copied from a friend of hers. She does not know who the artist(s) is. It is a fantastic version of "Cecilia" with many vocalists. Sounds like it is from a Broadway Musical. Any insight?
  • Cillia from Pleasanton, TxFor as long as I can remember this has been my favorite song. Although I was not named Cillia because of the song, it still holds alot of meaning. And Cillia your breaking my heart has always been a favorite line for ex boyfriends and ex husband....lol
  • David from Youngstown, OhGreat song. Notice how they sing "Celia" rather than "Cecilia" in most of the "Celia you're breaking my heart" lines.
  • Daniel from Bratislava, Slovakiavtedy som mal asi 10 rokov
  • Tom from Phoenix, AzHere's a weird thing. The next time you're listening to this song, listen to the first time S&G sing the word "Jubilaaaaaaaaaaation." During the "aaaaaaaaa" part you can distinctly hear a telephone disconnect or busy signal on the track. I've always wondered if that's intentional or something that was on the master tape before they recorded over it.
  • Troy from Buffalo, NyI think this song is about masturbation. "I got up to wash my face When I come back to bed Someone's taken my place" Unless this is some really esoteric
    song, why use that particular analogy? Call this a personal observation.
  • Cyberpope from Richmond, CanadaThis is a serious sad sack case!
    The guy gets up to wash his face & he comes back & some other guy is already in bed with his girlfriend! (So you know the guy was already in the house!)
    & the line, "you're shaking my confidence, daily"
    EVERY DAY this guy gets out of bed for 5 minutes & another man's doing his GF before he returns!
    Harsh imagery, but nice catchy tune!
  • Paulo from Toronto0, OnOne day I was playing the song Cecilia by Simon and Garfunkel when a lady came to me and asked to stop playing this song!!! I ask her why and she told me that her name was Cecilia and she hated this song since she was very young, all because of the references to a "wore" as she put it!!! when I explained to her that the song was about a "writers block" she was all smiles and she started enjoying it!!!I played the song one more time and she was dancing to it...true story
  • Andrew from Birmingham, United StatesSimon and Garfunkel have made interesting hits throughout the '60s. I think it proves interesting that, when the '70s began, Simon and Garfunkel were willing to conform to the new style. The lyrics in this song make an unexpected pattern. It starts off dark and depressing, but the end is brighter. WOW!! I at first thought to myself, "How ironic! Cecilia makes heartbreaking moves, in a song with a some-sort disco beat." But near the end I think "They made up, and the disco beat is present? Ahh, now it makes sense." Simon and Garfunkel, that was catchy! You two just made top-notch!
  • Eric from New York, NyHi Everyone-

    You are all wrong when it comes to the meaning of this song. I found out a couple of years ago that it was written for my boyfriends cousin Cecilia. Apparently they dated (Paul & Cecilia) for a while and she broke it off. My partner has told me a bit about the story but nobody really talks about it in the family because of the racy lyrics. Well, I had dinner with Cecilia a few months back she's a lovely woman. Boy did I want a run down on that story!
    Eric- NY,NY
  • Geoff from Adelaide, AustraliaI just love how this is so simple and catchy.
  • Quentin from Houston, TxFolks, in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter what Simon's inspiration was for the song???

    I mean, COME ONE!!! Do we have to pick apart each line and decided if he was talking about a lover, a whore, or a mythical muse of inspiration??? Why can't we just let the damned song stand for what it is ... a hand-clapping, foot-stomping, lively melody that often brings a smile to people's faces when they hear it and causes everyone to sing along?

    My God ... there are much more serious and bigger issues you could be debating rather than trying to determine the "MYSTERIOUS ORIGINS" of the lyrics.

    IT IS WHAT IT IS. Leave it at that and enjoy life.

    SHEEESH.
  • Kelli from Kalamazoo, MiOh, and by the way, we all call her CeCe anyway. Just didn't like the lyrics. But, like I said she wasn't named after this song, just too many people had told me there was a song called "Cecilia", CeCe will forgive me in time, once she finds out the crappy song. KA, SAN ANTONIO, BORN IN KALAMAZOO, MI
  • Kelli from Kalamazoo, MiMy beautiful four month old daughter is named Cecilia, after her grandmother, Cecilia Frances Rebecca Alice Keaton Asherman. And I didn't know there was a song til now, but after reviewing the lyrics I wish there wasn't!
    KA
    San Antonio, Texas
  • Darrell from Eugene, United StatesWhen we were still in school, my good friend Ebba and myself always made a rather unattractive, chubby, bespectacled girl named Cecelia feel as though she was living in Hell. We did things like gluing everything in Cecelia's desk together in a huge wad, leaving crumpled gum wrappers and chewed nicotine gum (used by Ebba in order to make a halfhearted attempt at getting high) and many other things lying in, on or around her desk and calling her names. Cecelia Padilla, if you ever read this, Darrell and Ebba are both very sorry for putting you through Hell for a short period of your public-school career.
  • Seppy from Mumbai, IndiaWhen i firsr heard the song i felt am in air ...something strange
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesIn May 1996, ex-Madness vocalist Suggs hit the UK Top 3 with a cover version of "Cecilia" in an unlikely collaboration with disco duo Louchie Lou & Michie One. It was a reasonable cover with an ingenious video, but not a patch on the original version
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrI know this might sound interesting, but I find it's kind of cool. In the beginning of this song, and throughout the song, there's a sound like short hits of guitar notes. There's also the strange rhythm, that sounds like banging on the body of a guitar. What in the world is that mysterious instrument?
  • Cecilia from Duluth, MnI was named after this song. For years I hated the song, because I hated that I was named after a song. But now I actually like it! LOL! Funny how that worked out! It is a great song, timeless too!
  • Lee S from Hopkins, MiI had a friend in college that hated this song. Her name was Cecilia. She went by Cec.
  • Linus from Hamilton, On, CanadaPaul Simon wrote this about his "muse", similarly as McCartney did in "Martha my Dear".
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScGreat interpretation Keith. I never thought of that. I thought like several of the posters here that it was about a cheating girlfriend.
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnThis was one of Simon and Garfunkel's final uptempo hits. Very well-written.
  • Marlow from Perth, Australiaive just discovered this song... and i love it!
    some songs are timeless classics!
  • Billy from Plymouth, NhWhile I prefer Keith D's eloquent take on the subject, I can respect the less savoury possibilities posed. To me, peering too intently into the structure detracts from the pleasuer of the tune. I believe it's more an emotional state than a thoughtful one, less insightful & more visceral.
    Nobody's wrong, & everybody's right. Just relax & clear your mind & sing! I know it sounds Zen-ish, but it's a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the music, letting it flow over you like sitting on a river bed while the water rushes over you.
  • Kevin Anderson from Batavia, IlI understand the song to be about a "marital" aid. Cecilia shakes his confidence daily using one.
  • Deanne from Harrisonburg, VaMy daughter, Cecilia, was born 9 weeks premature on December 29, 2004. The words were an aching anthem for me ("Cecilia, you're breaking my heart, You're shaking my confidence daily", "Cecilia, I'm down on my knees, I'm begging you please to come home") as I waited 41 days for my beautiful baby to be well and strong enough to leave her incubator in the NICU and come home. She was so named because I am a pianist/organist and have always believed in the "spirit" of St. Cecilia. My husband and I both love Simon & Garfunkel's "Cecilia", and felt that they are two of the most incredible musicians human ears have ever been blessed to experience. As someone who tires of people reading something illicit or "dirty" into every song (see previous comments), I so appreciate and applaud Keith's beautiful insight into the lyrics of "Cecilia"!! Lovely and well-said, sir. I thank you, my husband thanks you, and our precious Cecilia, who finally came home and flourished, thanks you.
  • Sebastian from Munich, GermanyKeith i guess your right. Very good interpretaton! respect!
  • Jon-michael from Augusta, Georgia, Galove this song, good melody too.
  • Stephen from York, NeThat is not a "hippie beat". The rhythm form is called "Africanism".
  • Jay from New York, NyKeith, your interpritation is fascinating. I had never thought of the song as being about anything but a cheating girlfriend, but your theory of a symbolic relationship between Simon and St. Cecilia makes sense.
    St. Cecilia is also mentioned in another Paul Simon song. "The Coast" begins with "A family of musicians took shelter for the night in the little harbor church of St. Cecilia." Since the next line ends with bouganvilia (a flower), it had never occured to me that St. Cecilia was anything more than a rhyming word. The line takes on greater meaning and significance with the knowledge that the family was staying in a church named for their patron saint.
  • Nessie from Sapporo, JapanKeith, good call. His muse leaves and returns.
  • Daniel from Cincinnati, OhIts got the beat of a hippie song, which makes it all the more wonderful.
  • Keith Dennis from Portland, OrThis is just a theory, but it's a lot more poetic than the "cheating girlfriend" story. How many of Simon and Garfunkel's song's lyrics are so explicitly on the nose? Not many. St. Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians, so Simon is singing about having writer's block. Everything is going great (he's making love) and when he takes a short break (getting up to wash his face) he finds that his inspiration has left him. But it comes back.
  • Denise from Santa Clarita, CaThis song was written at the last minute in the studio so there would be enough songs for the album.
  • Ashley from Roseville, MiI'm not sure, but i thought this song was about a prostitute
  • Justin from Bakersfield, CaIs it me or does it sound like a reference to oral sex is being made in this song?? follow me here "Making love in the afternoon with Cecilia
    Up in my bedroom (making love)
    I got up to wash my face
    When I come back to bed
    Someone's taken my place" notice the wash my face part.
  • Mia from Elk River, MnOne of my favourite summer songs!
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