May 142021

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Cecilia covers

Eddie Simon started it. He was with his brother Paul at the house on Blue Jay Way where George Harrison had been inspired to write the song of that name. Now Art Garfunkel had rented it for a few months, and there were a few festive evenings there in the summer of ’69. One night, Eddie started banging out a rhythm on a piano bench, and it proved so infectious that everyone there joined in, banging along with whatever they could find. They taped the track, and Paul kept returning to its ebullience. When he brought it into the studio, he and producer Roy Halee made a loop of one section, to which Paul added lyrics that literally went from heartbreak to jubilation.

“The whole thing was a piece of fluff,” he later said. “But magical fluff.” Indeed, the song was as sexy as Simon and Garfunkel ever got, and as one biographer later put it, “the song’s thwacking, thumping battery of percussion felt like an ad-hoc group of street-musician drummers pounding away in Central Park.” As Bridge Over Troubled Water‘s third single, the song went top-five in America and remains a classic rock favorite.

“Cecilia” has garnered a lot of covers over the years. Big names from Stan Getz to Smokey Robinson have tried it out, and Suggs of Madness fame took it into the top 10 in the UK. But one need not be famous to make a successful cover of the song – all you have to do is feel it, then let that feeling out. The following five artists definitely do that.

Local Natives – Cecilia (Simon & Garfunkel cover)

The Local Natives’ performance of “Cecilia,” live from the backyard of their L.A. residence, is one of the most popular “Cecilia” covers on YouTube, and for good reason. It’s not that it captured an indie band so early in their careers, before they went on to some measure of success. No, it’s that it captured the exuberance and creativity of youth so vividly, as they raise their voices and play anything that comes to hand.

Morgan James – Cecilia (Simon & Garfunkel cover)

Morgan James has a voice that allows her to write her own ticket for what she wants to do. Whether at Juilliard, on Broadway, or with Postmodern Jukebox, her talent has dazzled all who’ve heard it. Here, with a guitar/piano/bass backing, she gives “Cecilia” a new pace, dialing down the euphoria and bringing the song’s power back to its words.

COIN – Cecilia (Simon & Garfunkel cover)

COIN’s cover of “Cecilia” starts off like it’s going to be, if not a sound-alike, at least a sound-similar. But that’s very much not the case; they turn the song into pop-rock, less about the rhythm than the guitar. It doesn’t seem like it should work, so deeply ingrained is the percussion from the original. But it does work, and very well indeed.

Jesse Cook feat. Jeremy Fisher – Cecilia (Simon & Garfunkel cover)

Jesse Cook is a guitarist who started off with flamenco and then bloomed from there, picking up strains of samba, jazz, pop, and more. He shows his talents on his cover of “Cecilia,” which also features Paul Simon soundalike Jeremy Fisher on vocals. Together they make the song sound like something from Simon’s vaults, a world music excursion that he somehow never released.

Colt Clark and the Quarantine Kids – Cecilia (Simon & Garfunkel cover)

We’ll close with some cuteness. When COVID cancelled Colt Clark’s concerts, he was able to spend more time with his children Cash, Beckett, and Belle. To pass the time, they set out to learn a new song every day, and then make a performance video of it (with wife/mom Aubree serving as cinematographer). Soon they were going viral on a daily basis, with their joyous, rambunctious covers. “Cecilia” is a typical example of how they do what they do. As little pitchers have big ears, they clean up the lyrics a bit, but it only makes them more endearing.

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