The Graduate: Simon & Garfunkel's iconic soundtrack revisited

22 December 2023, 08:25

Simon & Garfunkel's soundtrack for 1967 coming of age comedy-drama The Graduate became instantly iconic.
Simon & Garfunkel's soundtrack for 1967 coming of age comedy-drama The Graduate became instantly iconic. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Thomas Edward

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"Well here's to you, Mrs. Robinson.."

Simon & Garfunkel's soundtrack to Mike Nichols' 1967 film The Graduate has become synonymous with young men coming of age.

Dustin Hoffman stars in the central role as a recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock, who returns home to the adoration of his family, but feeling listless and lost with life after education.

That's until he befriends the alluring Mrs. Robinson, one of his well-to-do parent's friends, who takes a liking to the shy young Braddock.

And from then onwards a relationship ensues, culminating in a classic cinematic scene in a church involving Hoffman's Braddock and Anne Bancroft's Mrs. Robinson.

Whilst the film was a major success, its accompanying soundtrack also became as instantly recognisable - though the instrumental score was composed by Dave Grusin, The Graduate was notable as it featured five songs of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.

The following year, Simon and Grusin won the Grammy Award for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special, whilst the folk-rock group collected the award for Best Contemporary-pop Performance, Vocal Duo or Group at the same ceremony.

But which of Simon & Garfunkel's songs did feature in The Graduate? Let's look back at the iconic soundtrack:

'Mrs. Robinson'

Simon & Garfunkel - Mrs. Robinson (Audio)

'Mrs. Robinson' is no doubt the song that people immediately associate between Simon & Garfunkel and The Graduate, given the song was effectively written for the film.

Only segments of the song featured in The Graduate, as they weren't fully formed by the time the film was released at the tail end of 1967.

But Paul Simon eventually completed 'Mrs. Robinson' by the time their 1968 album Bookends was finalised, and was later released as a single for the film's soundtrack.

It might have never even existed had Art Garfunkel not mentioned Simon's early song sketches to director Mike Nichols.

Garfunkel said it was "a trifle song we were about to throw out," but once Nichols heard this early version he pleaded with Simon to continue working on it for the film.

"His intelligence allowed him to hang loose and make all these different, fabulous choices," Art added.

The original lyrics to 'Mrs. Robinson' were "here's to you, Mrs. Roosevelt", believed to be about former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who was a female rights and black rights activist, with many feeling that she was as influential as her husband, former POTUS Franklin D. Roosevelt.

'The Sound Of Silence'

Simon & Garfunkel - The Sounds of Silence (Audio)

'The Sound Of Silence' was Simon & Garfunkel's breakthrough song once it was released in 1965, and Mike Nichols knew he wanted to include it in his film.

It took Paul Simon six months to pen the lyrics, which he wrote about people's lack of ability to communicate with people around them.

The theme of the song actually transpires throughout The Graduate - if people communicated truthfully, then the awkward, messy situations the characters found themselves in could've been resolved sooner.

Director Mike Nichols initially used 'The Sound Of Silence' as a placeholder throughout the film-making process, intending to replace it later down the line.

As filming and editing progressed, however, The Graduate began to fit the song so perfectly, that he changed tack and asked Simon & Garfunkel personally to make up the film's soundtrack.

'Scarborough Fair / Canticle'

Simon & Garfunkel - Scarborough Fair/Canticle (Audio)

'Scarborough Fair / Canticle' originally featured on Simon & Garfunkel's third studio album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, in 1966.

Re-arranged from a Medieval folk song bards would sing when travelling across the length and breadth of England, you'd wonder why there was any association to an American graduate student, though it still featured on The Graduate soundtrack.

Paul Simon in fact came across the traditional English folk song during his early trips to the UK before he achieved any considerable success, and later transformed it into an anti-Vietnam message.

It was only later released as a standalone single after the enormous success of The Graduate.

'April Come She Will'

April Come She Will

'April Come She Will' was penned by Paul Simon and originally featured on Simon & Garfunkel's second studio album, Sounds Of Silence, in 1965.

Inspired by a nursery rhyme recited by an English woman Simon once had an affair with, the song was meant to evoke the changes of a person's moods, wants and desires as the seasons change.

This is precisely why Mike Nichols felt the song was ideal for The Graduate soundtrack.

'The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine'

The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine

'The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine' was initially released as a B-side to Simon & Garfunkel's 1966 single 'The Dangling Conversation'.

Simon wrote the song whilst doing his washing in a launderette in London, mainly as a scathing attack on the consumerist culture that began to flood the US at the time, and how dissimilar London was despite its thriving cultural scene.

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