Monday, January 17, 2011


Divorce rates in the US spiked in the early 1970s. Simon would divorce his first wife, Peggy Harper, in 1975, three years after this album came out.

But in 1972, when it was released, they were still married, so this song about divorce is not about Simon's own. It sounds like it is about a friend's-- and not this friend's first, either: "...seems like you've done it again."

So the initial "congratulations" on the divorce is for the friend's sake. As for the speaker, he "ain't had such misery" in a while. While he is happy for his friend, he is upset that "so many people" are getting divorced, "waiting in the lines/ In the courtroom today."

At first, he takes his serially divorced friend to task for not taking marriage seriously enough: "Love is not a game," he scolds, or a "toy."

Then suddenly, he softens, realizing, "Love's no romance." We are to be forgiven for thinking that love, perhaps, was a plaything. After all, aren't we told it's a romance from the time we listen to fairy tales to the time we can see rated-R romantic comedies and buy $6.00 Valentine's Day cards?

No, it's not like that at all: "Love will do you in... you won't stand a chance." In the space of a chorus, the speaker goes from yelling at his friend to sympathizing with him.

Then the music crescendos, and the speaker wails, gospel-style-- this is a prayer now, and an earnest one-- that he really wants to know the answer.

And the question: "Can a man and a woman/ Live together in peace?" If all of his friends' marriages-- sparked by either the stability of the 1950s or the idealism of the 1960s-- can fail, what chance do any marriages have?

Can two such divergent genders (whom we will later learn even hail from different planets, Mars and Venus) ever be able to communicate? Form lasting, meaningful relationships? Even "live together in peace" without going to war?

Simon himself will marry and divorce... and marry again, this last time in 1992.

Maybe he finally found the answer. Maybe the answer to "Can a man and a woman live together in peace?" is-- "Which ones?"

Next song: Kodachrome

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