El Condor Pasa (If I Could)

Album: Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
Charted: 18
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  • I'd rather be a sparrow than a snail
    Yes I would, if I could, I surely would
    I'd rather be a hammer than a nail
    Yes I would, if I only could, I surely would

    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

    I'd rather be a forest than a street
    Yes I would, if I could, I surely would
    I'd rather feel the earth beneath my feet
    Yes I would, if I only could, I surely would Writer/s: DANIEL ALOMIA ROBLES, JORGE MILCHBERG, PAUL SIMON
    Publisher: Downtown Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

Comments: 29

  • John Martin from Maryland UsaWe all would rather be the hammer than the nail if we could, fantastic tune that rings so true
  • Ockeghem from MadridThere are a few innacuracies in the story told here, but I shall concentrate in one of them, particularly important, and for which I find no explanation, because the truth is perfectly made clear in the credits of Bridge over troubled waters: Paul Simon does not play any instrument in the version of If I could that was included in Bridge over troubled waters. They just added voices to the version that Los Incas had already recorded in Paris in 1963 for Philips. In short, only Los Incas play in that track. As the credits of Bridge over troubled waters state, "Instrumental track is performed by Los Incas with full authorization of Philips Records. Arrangement by Jorge Milchberg and English lyrics by Paul Simon". The instruments of the track are two quenas (Andean vertical flutes), two charangos strung in metal double strings (it is these two instruments, the two charangos, than can be heard at the begining of the song, one played strummed and the other plucked, taking the tune of the prelude obefore the "famous tune" enters) , one guitar (Spanish guitar) and bombo (drum) and the master used was that previously released by Philips back in 1963 in a Los Incas LP. For the rest, Daniel Alomia Robles certainly presented the piece -with no lyrics at all- as his composition in 1913, included as one of the movements of a zarzuela (a kind of mixed spoken and sung operetta), but Robles, who was a fine composer, also used to compile and arrange lots of Andean folk music that he had collected in his youth travelling across Perú. My impression is that the "famous" tune, the one to which Simon added lyrics, was originally composed by an anonymous popular musician, then arranged and orchestrated by Robles, and then "reabsorbed" by some folk bands in the 50's. It was already recorded with Andean instruments back in 1958 and then Jorge Milchberg, the director of Los Incas, made his wonderful arrangement around 1961. When Los Incas released their LP in 1963 it had a considerable success and they were a famous band in Paris, where Paul Simon attended some of their concerts and proposed them to buy the rights of the piece.
  • Larry Sollie from MinnesotaBeautiful song. The music is not composed by Simon. It's an Andean musical tune composed in 1913 and copyrighted in the US in 1933. The music was used in plays with an orchestra. Lots of wind pipes, pan flutes etc and no words. Simon gets no credit at all for El Condor Pasa as he had nothing to do with that song. He wasn't even born when that song was made. He gets credit along with 2 others (Peruvian) people for the song El Condor Pasa (If I Could) because he added lyrics. S&G made the song popular world wide which did make the government of Peru very happy. El Condor Pasa is now a heritage song for Peru and is a national anthem for that country as of 2004. Apparently that country now has 2 national anthem songs.
  • Anono from UsThis is my favorite S & G song, regardless of who originally wrote it.

    @Jesse - Madison, Wi : Speak for yourself when you generalize all Americans as stupid (meaning they don't appreciate a broader spectrum of musical genres).
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 6th 1970, "El Condor Pasa" by Simon and Garfunkel entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #54; and on October 25th, 1970 it peaked at #18 {for 1 week} and spent 11 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #6 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
    And it peaked at #1 in Australia, Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands...
    Was track two of side one the duo's fifth and final studio album, 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', and the album peaked at #1 {for 10 weeks} on March 1st, 1970; it was also the Billboard's #1 Album for the 1970 and won the Grammy for 'Best Album'...
    Three other tracks from the album all made the Top 10; "The Boxer" {#7}, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" {#1 for 6 weeks}, and "Cecilia" {#4}...
    Paul Simon will celebrate his 73rd birthday next month on October 13th; and one month later on November 5th Art Garfunkel will also turn 73 years old.
  • Steve from Whittier, CaTheir partnership swansong-or, ahem, condor-song.Very lovely..coulda been longer.
  • Tony from Wilmette, IlI am certain I heard this song in the end credits of MAD MEN
  • Adrienne from Port Washington, NyI 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
  • Regina from Atlanta, GaAlthough 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.
  • Beno from Guadalajara, MexicoEl 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
  • David from Youngstown, OhAnother 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.
  • Jesse from Madison, WiI'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!
  • Karen from Manchester, NhMy 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.
  • Harold from San Bernadino, CaThey just had so many wonderful songs---this one among the rest.
  • Ralph from Chattanooga, TnMy 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.
  • Rockie from Oregon City, OrI once heard a band from Argentina break into this song about halfway through their set .
    It was awsome !
  • Jonn from Liverpool, EnglandA truly Beautiful and Inspiring song. The lyrics are so emotive. Love it!
  • Jonathan from Bradford, Ma"El Condor Pasa" means "Condor Pass"
  • Abel from Buenos Aires, ArgentinaThe 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
  • Kate from Charlotte, NcI believe "El Condor Pasa" translates to "the condor passes."
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrDoes "El Condor Pasa" actually translate to, "If I Could"? Is it Spanish?
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnAn 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.
  • Noelia from Peru, EnglandLa 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.
  • Willy Espinoza from Lima, PeruThis 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).
  • Jonathan from Bradford, MaCheck 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.
  • Nickc from Ft. Wayne, InActually, 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.
  • Rajarshi from Dark Side Of The Moon, IndiaExcellent song, a very haunting tune 1 of da best songs of S&G!
  • Paola from Toronto, CanadaThe 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)
  • Sarah from Ottawa, CanadaThis 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.
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