Conductor James Levine has returned from an absence of more than two years to lead…
- Posted on Mar 29th 2011 11:00AM by Brian Voerding
'The Only Living Boy in New York,' Simon and Garfunkel
A dusted red 2011 Honda Accord pulls into a lonely view of a desert flat. The wheels cut hard into the terrain, blowing trails of smoked sand as the sedan sharply accelerates. The narrator opens with the line: "For over 30 years we've been aggressively followed. Looks like we finally lost 'em."
In the background, stacked vocals shimmer. It's Simon and Garfunkel, singing 'The Only Living Boy in New York,' a track off the duo's final studio record, 1970's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water.'
It's hard to imagine aging folkies selling something advertised as so modern. But the most powerful and timeless element of Simon and Garfunkel were the vocal harmonies, those welded major thirds suggesting bliss, the sublime comfort that comes from removal of all conflict.
The 30-second Honda commercial, which came out late last year and is currently on heavy rotation on networks everywhere, took just the song's first instrumental break. There are no lyrics, just a peppy bass line, a gently strummed guitar, and those radiant harmonies that were the duo's trademark.
The commercial fades out well before the return of Paul Simon's sharp lyrics, which revolved around Art Garfunkel's decision to spend time in Mexico advancing his acting career while Simon sat alone in New York, working on the songs for that last record.
Then again, maybe the lyrics, while missing from the commercial, are what drove Honda to selecting the song in the first place: The idea of the solitary man left standing, beginning work that would eventually leave the other songwriter -- or, in Honda's case, all others -- behind.