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“Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover”

Posted by purplemary54 on January 1, 2014

For the new year, a song about, um, making a fresh start.

Not quite a break-up song, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” is something of a meditation on the cynicism of the 70s.  A martial drum beat underwritten by feather-light guitar and solid bass is what carries Paul Simon’s almost nonsensical rhymes advising a guy to “slip out the back, Jack” as the way to “get yourself free.”  There’s little substance to this song; there’s not much holding it together besides the drums and chorus.  But it creates compelling characters in the guy who doesn’t know how to break-up with his lady, and his female friend who tells him “the problem is all inside your head.”  Their relationship is hazy, amorphous.  They might just be friends, or they might be friends with benefits.  Or she might be the next girlfriend he ditches by dropping off the key.  The push-pull of their interaction is fascinating.

Although as a song it barely shows its age (nearly 40 years old), there’s a smoky, jazzy quality that places it firmly in the Me Decade of the 1970s. But “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” is not locked into any one time.  That’s part of Paul Simon’s skill as a songwriter.  He used themes and musical styles that were endemic to the time, but kept the references and allusions timeless.  It still works, even if it is still kind of selfish.

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3 Responses to ““Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover””

  1. 45spin said

    And here I thought it was a guy giving him advice all these years. It is an amazing song and one of Paul Simon’s best.

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