Simon and Garfunkel – The Only Living Boy In New York

This was the B side to Cecilia. I’ve had two different bloggers mention this song to me in the past few days. I started to get into this song a little later than the others but it’s a beautiful song.

Paul Simon wrote this song about his partner Art Garfunkel going to Mexico to act in a movie called Catch-22, which was directed by Mike Nichols, who gave Simon & Garfunkel a big boost when he featured their songs in his 1967 film The Graduate. Simon was also going to be in the film, but Nichols cut his part, which separated the duo. Garfunkel spent months working on the film while Simon returned to New York, where he toiled away on the Bridge Over Troubled Water album.

Paul Simon sent letters to keep in touch with Garfunkel and update him on the album’s progress. Up to that point, the pair had always partnered musically and shared a bond, which was now breaking… Simon and Garfunkel split up after the album was released…Paul recorded as a solo artist, and Art pursued his acting career.


From Songfacts

Regarding the lyrics, “Tom get your plane right on time. I know that your eager to fly now,” before the folk duo became famous, they were known as Tom and Jerry. Tom was Art’s stage name, so this line symbolizes their increasing need for musical and personal freedom.

In a 1990 interview with SongTalk magazine, Simon said: “I liked the ‘aaahhhs,’ the voices singing ‘aaah.’ That was the best I think that we ever did it. It was quite a lot of voices we put on, maybe twelve or fifteen voices. We sang it in the echo-chamber.”

This song was addressed during a screening of the Simon & Garfunkel documentary Songs of America. At the screening, Garfunkel said, “I had Paul sort of waiting: ‘All right, I can take this for three months. I’ll write the songs, but what’s the fourth month? And why is Artie in Rome a fifth month? What’s Mike [Nichols] doing to Simon & Garfunkel?’ And so there’s Paul in the third month, still with a lot of heart, writing about, ‘I’m the only living boy in [New York]. You used to be the other one.”

This was used in the 2004 movie Garden State. Zach Braff, who wrote and directed the movie, thought the song worked perfectly to convey the loneliness of a character. Simon & Garfunkel rarely license the song, but they let Braff use it for a greatly reduced fee after seeing the scene. 

The session musician Joe Osborn played an 8-string bass on this track, which the album’s producer Roy Halee said was the featured musical element of the song. Years later, when Osborn tried to relearn his part to demonstrate it, he realized it was very difficult to reproduce live, as Halee spliced together various takes for the recording.


The Only Living Boy In New York

Tom, get your plane right on time
I know your part’ll go fine
Fly down to Mexico
Do-n-do-d-do-n-do and here I am,
The only living boy in New York

I get the news I need on the weather report
I can gather all the news I need on the weather report
Hey, I’ve got nothing to do today but smile
Do-n-doh-d-doh-n-doh and here I am
The only living boy in New York

Half of the time we’re gone
But we don’t know where,
And we don’t know where

Half of the time we’re gone
But we don’t know where,
And we don’t know where

Tom, get your plane right on time
I know you’ve been eager to fly now
Hey let your honesty shine, shine, shine now
Like it shines on me
The only living boy in New York,
The only living boy in New York


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

20 thoughts on “Simon and Garfunkel – The Only Living Boy In New York”

  1. I think I’ve heard it before, but really didn’t remember it (although the name did stick out in my head)… not bad, but I’ll dissent and say Columbia were right with “Cecilia” being the A-side.


  2. It’s so beautiful – nice organ as well. The lyrics are oddly specific for a single though – I can see why you’d choose Cecilia as a single when you’ve also released The Boxer and Bridge Over Troubled Water.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It does make sense commercial wise…that I agree…I just think the other is the better song…but it would not have been as big of a hit.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It has a bit of a Beatles feel to it, have you noticed that?

    I’ve a box set of S&G’s albums – not the best recordings so one day I’ll replace them – but I do like to sit down some days and just listen right through them! This is a track that I don’t often remember, so thanks for the reminder.

    (Maybe you could do a future post – if you haven’t already – about singles with better B sides than A sides? There must be plenty of them!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve done a best double A sided before but yes I need to check some that the B side is better. In this case this is the better song to me…not the mot commercial out of the two but the better.

      Liked by 1 person

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