The over-riding message of Bookends (or at least the first half) seems to be this: “at the end of your life, remember the good and the bad, because it is both that define who you are.”

After the naïve quest for self-discovery in “America,” we have a sudden moment of maturity with “Overs.” It starts with the lyrics “Why don’t we stop fooling ourselves? The game is over, over, over.” It’s as if the search for “America” was futile, and it’s time to act like a grown-up. This transitions into “Voices of Old People.” Not really a song but a collection of candid recordings of people in a nursing home, “Voices” is a little harrowing. You hear these residents as they really are. Only two minutes of footage are used, but there’s quite a bit packed in here. One woman tells of how even though her husband’s dead, she still only sleeps on half of the bed. One man states how being an “old man” is his destiny. There’s a vehement discussion between two women of a mother’s devotion to her child. And of course, there is one old person (I can’t decide on gender) who talks about mucus and coughing up blood. It seems when you hit a certain age, you become more vocal about bodily functions.

This objective example of the elderly changes to a more emotional study with “Old Friends.” With this, Simon is speculating aloud what old age will be like for him and Garfunkel. When Art sings the bridge, he asks, “Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench, quietly?” In all likelihood, he’s directly addressing Simon. By this time, they’re already “old friends.” They’ve known each other since elementary school, and been performing as a duo since their teens. By 1968, that’s probably just shy of 20 years. As their friendship gets even older, how will it change?

Despite the release of Bridge Over Troubled Water in 1970 – arguably their most successful album – the two parted on unfriendly terms that year. Like any good and true friends, however, they put their differences aside shortly thereafter for a brief reunion in 1972, and then again for the famous Central Park concert in 1981. The 1975 single “My Little Town” that appeared on both men’s current solo albums was proof they had buried the hatchet.

hey, they really are “old friends!”

“Old Friends” segues right into the title track, a reprise and full treatment of the 30 second intro track. It’s still a rather short song, but it puts forth its emotional impact so succinctly it need not be longer. The first side of Bookends finishes where it began; perhaps S&G are saying the progression of youth to old age is a circle that acts the same way.

I can’t help but notice that in S&G’s story of that progression, they completely skip the middle part. We go from the youthful rebellion of “Save the Life of My Child” and quarter-life crisis of “Overs” directly to nursing homes and park-bench inactivity. What about the rest? You don’t just magically wake up one day and POOF you’re old. The change comes slowly and sometimes unnoticed. It takes time. But the thing is you never think of yourself as young or old; the people around you are always younger or older than you, but you remain the age you are, whatever that happens to be at the time.