Fog's rollin' in off the East River bank
Like a shroud it covers Bleecker Street
Fills the alleys where men sleep
Hides the shepherd from the sheep
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Bleecker and MacDougal
Many people change their name, and those in show business are some of the greatest name changers of all. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel began life as a singing duo by the name of Tom and Jerry. Maybe the cartoon association did it for them in the end.
The two musicians were practically neighbors in Queens, the largest borough in the Big Apple. They even performed in the same elementary school play together. Their name change was unusual in that they went back to their real names. Many performers change their real name to something else; the unknown Dino Crocetti became the well-known Dean Martin, but here, Tom and Jerry became Simon & Garfunkel.
The duo created many smash hits, "The Sound of Silence
," "Mrs. Robinson
," "Scarborough Fair
" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water
" among them. Their song "Bleecker Street," sometimes misspelt "Bleeker Street," was not one of their smash hits, although some fans reckon their terrific harmonies are in no better form than in this song. Nevertheless, it still did very nicely, thank you very much. It was released on their album Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.
Bleecker Street from the Bowery
Bleecker Street, a one-way street, was named for the Bleecker family, through whose farm the street originally ran, back in the early 1800s. Today, Bleecker Street is so posh there are bona fide "walking tours" offered of the gourmet restaurants and boutiques along its path. At the time the song was written (1963) Bleecker Street and surrounds was the place to go for music, comedy, and aspiring artistes. Many well-known performers got their start or a solid boost when performing in the clubs in this area of the Manhattan borough. Such performers as Richard Pryor, Bruce Springsteen, Bill Cosby, Jimi Hendrix, and Bob Dylan made their mark in the venues on Bleecker Street. Being New Yorkers, Simon and Garfunkel would have been well aware of the area's popularity.
The lyrics have many biblical references, some of which are misunderstood. Paying $30 for rent shows the age of the song, but perhaps that's a reference to Judas Iscariot and 30 pieces of silver. For some fans, "Bleecker Street" is a highly underrated and undervalued song. Some people say one of the tests of the lyrics of a song is their mysterious, even mystical qualities. "Bleecker Street" certainly has some tantalizing and poetic imagery. A good example is the line, "Voices leaking from a sad café."
In the 1960s Bleecker Street was an area where counter-culture and a bohemian lifestyle were all the rage. And Bleecker Street is alive and well today. Easy to find, easy to access, and in some ways, not unlike it was back in the bohemian days of the 1960s. It's part of the Greenwich Village nightclub area, and so, while the acts and club names may have changed - not to mention the bar prices and rents - the entertainment vibe is still in full voice.
~ Cenarth Fox
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