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Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept-2001


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Jim Dixon 03 Oct 01 - 01:55 PM
GUEST 03 Oct 01 - 02:22 PM
Jack the Sailor 03 Oct 01 - 02:37 PM
Jim the Bart 03 Oct 01 - 02:52 PM
Murray MacLeod 03 Oct 01 - 09:55 PM
Nancy King 03 Oct 01 - 10:01 PM
georgeward 04 Oct 01 - 02:36 AM
Alice 04 Oct 01 - 06:21 AM
Jeri 04 Oct 01 - 10:03 AM
GUEST, 04 Oct 01 - 04:48 PM
Walking Eagle 04 Oct 01 - 05:12 PM
M.Ted 05 Oct 01 - 02:36 PM
SharonA 05 Oct 01 - 05:42 PM
Joe Offer 09 Apr 17 - 09:54 PM
GUEST,Malcolm Storey 10 Apr 17 - 08:49 PM
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Subject: Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 03 Oct 01 - 01:55 PM

I want to discuss Paul Simon's performance of "The Boxer" on last Saturday's "Saturday Night Live."

It was the opening of the new season for SNL, which is, of course, based in New York. It's an awkward time for anybody to do comedy, coming so soon after the World Trade Center disaster, and especially hard for SNL, which is known especially for its topical political satire and caricatures of politicians. (I may be over-explaining for some of you, but I'm thinking of our foreign friends who may be reading this.)

The SNL staff figured, rightly I think, that they could not plunge into comedy right away, without first making a serious recognition of the tragedy. They chose to do it by paying tribute to the heroism of the police and firefighters.

Mayor Giuliani made a brief statement in praise of heroes at the opening of the show, and he introduced the New York Chief of Police and the Fire Chief, who stood on each side of him. About 20 police officers and firefighters stood behind them, in uniforms or in firefighting gear.

Then Paul Simon, without being introduced, proceeded to sing "The Boxer," while the various officers and firefighters simply stood around looking serious and dignified. During the "Lie-la-lie" choruses, we saw close-ups of their faces.

Then Giuliani made a further statement about how life goes on, New York is open for business, etc., and that's why the show must go on. This led into the first joke of the evening. Lorne Michaels: "Can we be funny?" Giuliani: "Why start now?" Then Giuliani uttered the trademark phrase, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" The remainder of the show was unremarkable.

I was puzzled by the choice of "The Boxer." It doesn't have the obvious relevance that "Bridge over Troubled Water" has. It even has some unflattering things to say about New York -- "…wishing I was gone…" -- and so on. And the part that seems most relevant to me was left out! I mean the verse that contains "After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same." That verse seems to carry the hopeful "life goes on" message. (It wasn't in the first recorded version either.)

It left me thinking that "The Boxer" was a bad choice. I looked at it again this morning (I have it on tape) and I like it a bit better, but I want to hear others' reactions before I comment further.

Here are the words to The Boxer in an old thread. And here is a web page that gives some background information about it.

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Subject: RE: Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept
Date: 03 Oct 01 - 02:22 PM


It's a good song!

Isn't that enough?

Surely we shouldn't stay in perpetual mourning.

Must everything for the next year or two be judged in relation to the WTC disaster?

We've managed to forget about the Pentagon attack easily enough...

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Subject: RE: Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept
From: Jack the Sailor
Date: 03 Oct 01 - 02:37 PM

I heard some talking head, I believe on Entertainment Tonight, say it represented the "fighting spirit" of New York. You know the boxer takes abeating but keeps going.

My choice of Paul Simon's songs would have been American Tune.

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Subject: RE: Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept
From: Jim the Bart
Date: 03 Oct 01 - 02:52 PM

I'm sorry I missed the performance; it's one of my favorite PS tunes and that's saying a lot. He has many that really get to me.

My thought about its relevance is that it is a song about a common man facing -without romanticizing - the slings and arrows of life in NYC. What makes this song particularly appropriate, in my opinion, is what is implied in the last verse: To be wounded by the city is not uncommon; as always, some may choose to leave, while others will fight on. It does not provide the comfort that "Bridge" might have as much as it does a challenge. A cool and interesting stance to choose, IMO.


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Subject: RE: Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 03 Oct 01 - 09:55 PM

I am with Jack the Sailor on this one. If ever there was a time to sing "American Tune", this was it.


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Subject: RE: Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept
From: Nancy King
Date: 03 Oct 01 - 10:01 PM

Jim, the Washington Post had the same reaction you -- and I -- did. It seemed an odd choice and an awkward opening for the show.

I think I like the song better for its tune than its words, though both have been going through my head ever since Saturday night. I'll have to strike up a chorus of "Gary Indiana" as an antidote.

Cheers, Nancy

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Subject: RE: Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept
From: georgeward
Date: 04 Oct 01 - 02:36 AM

"I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains"

I saw the show. And to me that line was the crux and justification for the whole opening. Powerful and appropriate, I thought. A resourceful, effective solution to the problem of how to begin. Nice piece of NYC PR.

"Unremarkable" is about the kindest thing you can say about the rest of the show. -George ::-.--O

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Subject: RE: Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept
From: Alice
Date: 04 Oct 01 - 06:21 AM

I agree with George, except I liked the "Jesse Jackson" bit of the show. The only line that fit from The Boxer was "but the fighter still remains", and the camera suddenly focused on Giuliani's face, and I thought, is this a statement that he'll try to hold on to his position as mayor? I thought it was an odd choice, too. The rest of the lyrics clashed with the situation - "I'm going home", the "New York winters bleeding me", etc. I think it is a good song in its own right, but not the best Paul Simon song for that occasion.


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Subject: RE: Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept
From: Jeri
Date: 04 Oct 01 - 10:03 AM

I didn't see the show, but I can understand the lyrics in this context. The guy came to NYC to follow a dream, and the dream didn't work out. He keeps saying he's going to give up and leave, but in the last verse, "he still remains." Perhaps his dream is not quite gone.

Perhaps, since Giuliani spoke of heroes, the song was intended to show the hero who is a hero simply because he stands in the wreckage in a life, or a city, and doesn't give up his dream?

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Subject: RE: Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept
From: GUEST,
Date: 04 Oct 01 - 04:48 PM

I loved it to death!!! Loved it ~

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Subject: RE: Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept
From: Walking Eagle
Date: 04 Oct 01 - 05:12 PM

Take a real good look at the last verse when you click on the blue blicky at the beginning of the thread.

Also, I'm wondering if the boxer may be a metaphore for NYC, its' love/hate relationsip with itself. then the final verse is a sort of release, finally coming to grips that it is what it is and keeps on. Just an observation.

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Subject: RE: Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept
From: M.Ted
Date: 05 Oct 01 - 02:36 PM

-I imagined, as the camera panned the faces of the firefighters, that they were all thinking, "Why is he singing that?"--He was so overcome with emotion at the beginning(as were all of us watching) that it was truly amazing that he was able to pull it together--It must have been one of the most difficult moments for any performer ever--Later, it occurred to me that, given the emotions of the moment, he might not have been able to make it through a song with lyrics that were more direct, and, even if he had, the firemen, the mayor, and the audience would have all been in tears--not the best beginning for a comedy show--

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Subject: RE: Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept
From: SharonA
Date: 05 Oct 01 - 05:42 PM

Who made the decision that "The Boxer" be sung then? Simon? Giuliani? The firefighters? The comedy troupe? The writers, producers, who?

I'd always taken the song at more-or-less face value, so you've all given me some new interpretations to think about. Thanks. Nevertheless, the choice as the song to sing for a tribute on SNL is puzzling to me as well. BTW, Simon performed most of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" for the actors'/musicians' telethon on TV recently (but he did not sing the final refrain – "Like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind" – which was troubling in itself).

I agree with Jack and Murray that "American Tune" (one of my all-time favorite songs!) seems almost prophetically written about September 11th, but as MTed mentioned: could Simon have sung it to NYC and still have made it through the bridge of the song?...

"And I dreamed I was dyin'
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And lookin' back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flyin'
And high up above, my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailin' away to sea..."

Or could the NYC firefighters have remained stoic while hearing...

"We come in the age's most uncertain hour
And we sing an American tune
But it's all right, it's all right, it's all right
We can't be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow's gonna be another workin' day..."
[not for so many of their brethren, nor for so many workers in the towers that day]

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Subject: RE: Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept
From: Joe Offer
Date: 09 Apr 17 - 09:54 PM

Here's a performance of "The Boxer" and "Graceland" by Allison Krausss. I really enjoyed it.

Thread #5806   Message #33224
Posted By: Ralph Butts
23-Jul-98 - 06:37 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: The Folksinger (parody of The Boxer)
Subject: Lyr Add: THE BOXER (Paul Simon)

THE BOXER — Paul Simon (performed by Simon & Garfunkel)

I am just a poor boy,
Though my story's seldom told,
I have squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles,
Such are promises,
All lies and jest,
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear,
And disregards the rest,
Hmmmm, hmmmm.

When I left my home and my family,
I was no more than a boy,
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station,
Running scared, laying low,
Seeking out the poorer quarters where the ragged people go,
Looking for the places only they would know.


Asking only workman's wages, I come lookin' for a job, but I get no offers,
Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue.
I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome,
I took some comfort there. Oh, lie-la-lie...

Now the years are rolling by me, they are rocking evenly.
I am older than I once was, and younger than I'll be, that's not unusual.
No, it isn't strange, after changes upon changes, we are more or less the same.
After changes, we are more or less the same.


Then I'm laying out my winter clothes and wishing I was gone, going home,
Where the New York City winters aren't bleedin' me,
Leadin' me to going home..........

In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade,
And he carries the reminders of ev'ry glove that laid him down
Or cut him 'til he cried out in his anger and his shame:
"I am leaving, I am leaving", but the fighter still remains.
Yes, he still remains, hmmmm.


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Subject: RE: Paul Simon's 'The Boxer' on SNL, 29-Sept-2001
From: GUEST,Malcolm Storey
Date: 10 Apr 17 - 08:49 PM

Thanks Joe for introducing me/us to yet another fine singer.

Fortunately the world seems to be well endowed with really lovely singers and unfortunately we cannot get to listen to them all.

On a separate thread recently I asked why Niamh Parsons is not overwhelmed with work and up there when gongs are being handed out.

I probably know the answer but as I said there don't get me started on the media!

I recall being with friends at a new year gathering in the sargeants mess at a RAF base in the last century where the entertainer for the night was a young lady with a West Indian background and a voice like an angel.

She could quite literally have sung the telephone directory. However her material was exclusively "covers", wonderfully done but still "covers". Stardom was not going to beckon but she is still more than likely doing OK on the pub / club circuit.

Alison Strauss has at least got most of the way there and good luck to her.

I still for all that prefer the S & G versions.



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