Following yesterday’s joyous Modern Lovers number about riding along Route 128 with the radio on, we take a much longer, and more wistful road trip with one of the finest songs written by Paul Simon. It was inspired by a trip he took with his then girlfriend, Kath Chitty in 1964. It appeared on the duo’s 1968 album, Bookends, and was released as a single for the 1972 Greatest Hits LP. The narrator takes a four-day hitch-hike from Saginaw before boarding a Greyhound bus with his girlfriend before they privately laugh and joke about other passengers, wondering about their secret identities:
Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together
I've got some real estate here in my bag.
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner's pies
And we walked off to look for America.
Cathy, I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
Michigan seems like a dream to me now.
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've gone to look for America.
Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said, be careful, his bowtie is really a camera …
Beautifully performed, not merely with the trademark vocal harmonies, but also with a soprano sax, pipe organ and acoustic guitars, the song not only evokes the feel of travelling on the road, but brilliantly captures a cinematic image of many people traversing the country, with hopes and dreams, and yet living an existence that is fragile. And with this the narrator’s love feels insecure too. He can only tell Kathy how he feels when he she’s asleep:
Kathy, I'm lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America.
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