Sitting in Starbucks this morning catching up on my long-form reading for the week, a familiar song came on the radio. Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” started playing and, to my surprise, the lady beside me started to sing along under her breath. I can relate, as I was doing the same thing.
When the song reaches the last refrain, where they’re repeating the now-familiar “li li li ” phrase, it struck me why I find that passage of the song so powerful. The combination of the light “li li li” vocals, the deep resonance of the bass harmonica, the light higher tones, and of course the crashing of the cymbals produce an almost jerky, wave-like sensation. As if you were being rocked violently by an ocean storm. The “li li li” vocals acting as the almost-overpowered screams of the crew fighting for their survival.
Which fits in nicely with the melancholy, almost despair-driven, mood of the song itself. The author being thrown to and fro against the rocks of his own life, as described in the verses themselves.
(After some Googling, I can’t seem to find the instrument that produces the higher tones in the passage described. Anybody know what instrument that was? It sounds like a string instrument to me, but I can’t confirm.)