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Watch – Does Josh Groban’s version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” compare with the original?

Walking in the footsteps of giants isn’t easy, and this 2018 performance of Simon & Garfunkel’s masterpiece is, at the very least, a testament to Groban’s world class abilities.

Leaving the best for last

When it comes to “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, I’m biased – and for good reason.

It was the last recorded song on the duo’s fifth and last album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and it represents the artistic climax of one of the most loved, and critically acclaimed, musical partnerships of all time.

Paul Simon initially composed the song on guitar. To take it closer to the sound of a gospel hymn (the musical aesthetic he was aiming for), however, Simon adapted it for piano.

The composer also changed its key to better suit Garfunkel’s voice.

It was with these small changes that the piece began to transform itself from a soft and low-key hymn into the tour de force we know today.

Simon & Garfunkel performing in 1982

The power of simplicity

The genius of the song results from its evolution from a single, beautiful and vulnerable voice, accompanied by a bare piano, to an astounding triumph of musical power brought to life by a Grammy Award winning arrangement of orchestral instruments, an unrestrained piano at full flight, and Garfunkel’s supremely emotional vocal performance.

The simplicity of the song’s composition perfectly mirrors its poetic sentiment, which is a humble promise of empathy and devotion in times of hardship.

When you’re down and out

When you’re on the street

When evening falls so hard

I will comfort you

I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes

And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Now to Josh…

I don’t think anyone could quite reach the brilliance of the original recording (one of my favourite covers is a gripping and soulful version by Roberta Flack), but this performance by Josh Groban is exceptional.

Groban with a choir and orchestral instruments

Some critics believe Groban’s vocal range is too limited, amongst other things, to make him a heavyweight vocalist.

From my own perspective, however, his voice is liquid gold: it’s full bodied, fantastically powerful, commanding and masculine.

He makes extremely difficult vocal passages sound effortless, and surely must be counted as a world class performer.

In this (relatively) recent, much-talked of performance at New York’s Madison Square Garden, a mature and impressive artist uses his undeniable talent to successfully lead a piano, a choir, and a full complement of both modern and orchestral instruments.

Now we turn the question over to you: Does Josh Groban’s version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” do justice to the original?

Best use your headphones for this

 

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