Monday, May 27, 2013

Kathy and America - Simon & Garfunkel

The lyrics of America have colonised my mind for weeks: the Germans call it an 'earworm'.

And who is Kathy?
When Paul Simon moved to England in 1964, he met Kathleen Mary "Kathy" Chitty at the first English folk club he played, The Hermit Club in Brentwood, Essex, where Chitty worked part-time selling tickets. She was 17, he was 22, and they fell in love. 
Later that year they visited the US together, touring around mainly by bus. Kathy returned to England on her own with Simon returning to her some weeks later. When Simon returned to the US with the growing success of "The Sound of Silence" Kathy (who was quite shy) wanted no part of the success and fame that awaited Simon and they split up.

She is mentioned by name in at least two of his songs: "Kathy's Song" and "America," and is referred to in "Homeward Bound" and "The Late Great Johnny Ace." There is a photo of Simon and Kathy on the cover of The Paul Simon Songbook.
Here she is: nice-looking girl.


Paul Simon with Kathleen Mary "Kathy" Chitty
The lyrics to America are poignant and enigmatic.
"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 pies
And we walked off to look for America

"Kathy," 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"

"Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat"
"We smoked the last one an hour ago"
So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all gone to look for America
All gone to look for America
All gone to look for America.


And here's a video of Simon & Garfunkel performing the song.

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