Monday, February 18, 2013

Mrs. Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel

“Mrs. Robinson” isn’t really about Mrs. Robinson.

The Graduate is one of the greatest films of all time. This film about a recent college graduate’s struggle to figure out his life reflects a shared experience and feeling that twenty-something's across generations experience.

Then of course there is Mrs. Robinson who seduces, the recent college graduate, Benjamin while he is going out with her daughter. The whole cross-generational affair is enough to cause controversy and interest in viewers, but it’s really not the point of the film. The point is . . . well. . . it’s complex and multilayered and you’re just going to have to watch it to figure it out for yourself.

Mike Nichols’ the director of The Graduate became obsessed with Simon & Garfunkel, and asked for three songs to be written for this film. Paul Simon came up with the shell of one about Mrs. Roosevelt, Joe DiMaggio and times past. After some lyric changes, a stripped down version without verse appeared in the film.

Later Simon & Garfunkel completed this song and released it on their 1968 album, Bookends. Along with “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” (which I discussed in this earlier post), “Mrs. Robinson” became one of Simon & Garfunkel’s signature songs and one of the most popular songs of the decade.

Now when I said that this song isn’t about Mrs. Robinson, it’s because, she’s really not a respected or heroic figure in the film. The lyrics of this song really don’t hold the depth that later Paul Simon songs do. He admitted that the Joe DiMaggio reference had more to do with syllables then meaning and also there’s the fact that it was originally Mrs. Roosevelt that he was singing about.

What we are left is really about gratitude, trying to convince someone how important and meaningful they are to the people around them. It’s a beautiful sentiment and every time the chorus rises, you feel a sense of warmth and love.

If you take this song as being separate from the film, it takes on a whole other level of meaning. It’s not about the loss and confusion of The Graduate, rather it’s a reassuring anthem to a person who doesn’t realize how special she is to the people in her life.

Watch The Graduate and sing along with “Mrs. Robinson.” Try not to get them mixed up with each other. Sometimes we find meaning when we put things together but other times we find even more meaning when we look at things separately.

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