♫ The Boxer ♫

In the two years I’ve been doing these music posts, I’ve only played three by Simon & Garfunkel, so it’s about time for another, don’t you think?

Released in 1969, this song hit #1 in Canada, #6 in the UK, and #7 in the U.S.

In a 1984 interview, Paul Simon said that he wrote this song when critics were writing harsh things about his music – he was the boxer. Said Simon …

“I think the song was about me: everybody’s beating me up, and I’m telling you now I’m going to go away if you don’t stop. By that time we had encountered our first criticism. For the first few years, it was just pure praise. It took two or three years for people to realize that we weren’t strange creatures that emerged from England but just two guys from Queens who used to sing rock’n’roll. And maybe we weren’t real folkies at all! Maybe we weren’t even hippies!” 

This song took over 100 hours to record, with parts of it done at Columbia Records studios in both Nashville and New York City. The chorus vocals were recorded in a church: St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University in New York. The church had a tiled dome that provided great acoustics.

Sometimes what is put in as a placeholder lyric becomes a crucial part of the song. That was the case here, as Simon used “Lie la lie” in place of a proper chorus because he couldn’t find the right words.

“I thought that ‘lie la lie was a failure of songwriting. I didn’t have any words! Then people said it was ‘lie’ but I didn’t really mean that. That it was a lie. But, it’s not a failure of songwriting, because people like that and they put enough meaning into it, and the rest of the song has enough power and emotion, I guess, to make it go, so it’s all right. But for me, every time I sing that part, I’m a little embarrassed.”

During a New York City concert in October 2010, Paul Simon stopped singing midway through The Boxer to tell the story of a woman who stopped him on the street to tell him that she edits the song when singing it to her young child. Simon told the audience that she removed the words “the whores” and altered the song to say, “I get no offers, just a come-on from toy stores on Seventh Avenue.” Simon laughingly commented that he felt that it was “a better line.”

box of tissuesOn 3 June 2016 at his concert in Berkeley, California, Paul Simon again stopped singing partway through The Boxer, this time to announce in one sentence breaking news: “I’m sorry to tell you this in this way, but Muhammad Ali passed away.” He then finished the song with the last verse modified as: “In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade…”  


The Boxer
Simon & Garfunkel

I am just a poor boy
Though my story’s seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles, such are promises
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

When I left my home and my family
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station
Running scared,
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places
Only they would know

Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie

Asking only workman’s wages
I come looking for a job
But I get no offers
Just a come-on from the whores
On Seventh Avenue
I do declare
There were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there, le le le le le le le

Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie

Then I’m laying out my winter clothes
And wishing I was gone
Going home
Where the New York City winters
Aren’t bleeding me
Leading me
Going home

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev’ry glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains, mmm mmm

Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Paul Simon
The Boxer lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner Chappell Music Inc


51 thoughts on “♫ The Boxer ♫

  1. Pingback: ♫ The Boxer ♫ | The Inglorius Padre Steve's World

  2. Jill, I read Paul Simon’s biography and he described the painstaking process to recording this song. One of his talents is he wants his songs to be as good as they can be, so he is in constant pursuit of excellence. Yet, that is also a flaw as well, as he can be difficult on occasion. This is one of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • You didn’t sit in front of your new stereo set, right smack dab in the middle, stoned on acid and listening to the newest Rock Sensation, Jimi Hendrix, blasting Purple Haze around you in stereo? His guitar running back and forth from ear to ear as he wove a carpet of music never heard before around you? Oh, man, did you miss out. I feel sorry for anyone that did not have that experience. That was true STEREO, STEREO, STEREO.
      I know you never had this experience, Jill, and I don’t expect you can honour it the way those who knew the answer to his ARE YOU EXPERIENCED track’s question, but Jimi changed music forever.
      However, this post is about Simon and Garfunkel, and they aced this in their inimical way. I don’t think its their best, that spot in my opinion is reserved for I am a Rock. The thing is, all of their music was but a wisp away from perfection. Had they gone to Detroit instead of New York, they would have owned Motown even if they were lily-white. Berry Gordy would not have passed up talent and ability like they had.

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      • You know Rawgod I have to agree with your entire assessment. My first stereo was in 1964. It was a radio and we did sit smack dab in the middle. This was a little Early for Jimi since he got discovered in 1966 and started to become popular a year later. We did like the idea of following the vocals and seperate tracks bouncing from one speaker to the other. As one born and raised in Detroit I believe Simon and Garfunkle could have rocked the Motown sound.

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        • Damn, we didn’t get stereo players in Winnipeg till early 67. My best friend, whose parents were well off compared to my family, got everything he wanted, and when the stereo arrived the first LP we played on it was Are You Experienced? Didn’t take long, and we were.

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            • Left this mssage somewhere on one of his songs on your list, John, in answer to some kid who thinks he was born in the wrong time, after Jimi died.
              “If you lived to hear Jimi’s music played, you lived in the right time. The only wrong time to live was before he played, or was recorded. Music was born the day Chaz took Jimi to England. According to Don McLean, that means music died before it was even born. And if you think about it, that is exactly what happened.”

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                    • I wss a high-school dropout hippie living in Vancouver, BC, and environs, travelling by thumb back and forth to Winnipeg. I owned nothing, but had access to everything I wanted or needed access to. I’m betting I had more freedom, and possibly more fun.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • I don’t know about the fun. I used to work summers in Sarnia on a farm. (I grew up in Detroit) We went dancing everynight and drank an awful concoction called lemon gin. Those country girls sure liked to have fun too.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Yes, Canadian girls have always loved to have fun. But now for the strange part. At the tender age of about 5 or 6, I had two sports heros. I could only listen to sports on the radio, we didn’t barely have television in Winnipeg yet, and sports on TV was not a concern yet. So I would sneak away with my cheap transistor radio and move the dial until I found a game to listen to. I don’t remember what station was easiest to find, because station call letters were not important to me, but if WJR was doing sports in those days, that’s what I listened to most. My two heroes were Al Kaline and Gordie Howe. Because of them, I am fanatic about the Tigers, Red Wings, and now even the Lions and the Pistons, not to mention the Wolverines and Spartans. If it is Detroit, or even just Michigan, I am there.
                      In 1984 I made a pilgrimage to the Motor City. I went to visit the Olympia before it might get torn down. My then wife and I were treated to a three hour personal tour of the building, and our guide even turned on the escalator so we could take, he said, the longest escalator ride in the world. We believed him. (He, by the way, I believe may have been Al Wilson, the team’s trainer, who had happened to be there that day. I know he said he was the trainer at that time.) He took us into the locker room and told us so many stories about who sat where and gags the players sprung on each other I always wished I had a tape recorder he had enough material for two books. He took us into every nook and cranny. (There is even a story about what was going on outside the Olympia while we were inside, but you’ll have to make a request, cuz I don’t have time now to tell it here.) Anyways, if you are a sports fan at all, you will recognize what happened the year we were there. The Tigers were playing that night, but we couldn’t even get SRO tickets. They were in the middle of their 35-5 miracle season-opening run, and there were no seats to be had.
                      So, all that was just a way to say, Nice to meet you, John. And do you have any personal stories about the ’84 Tigers, or any of the Red Wings Stanley Cup years, I would love to hear them. gewcolo@gmai.com (PS, I think I was so stoned in 68 that I never paid any attention to the Tigers, and didn’t hear about their World Series victory until the mid 70s. Bummer!)

                      Liked by 2 people

  3. There’s an even nicer recording of this song in his Live Simon album where he plays it with some wonderful Peruvian musicians.
    He’s surely written and played some great music.

    Liked by 1 person

        • Hate to disagree, Rog, but I think we accomplushed a lot. Maybe the changes are not so visible as they once were in this era of Trump, but if you look from a certain viewpoint, Trump is just a reaction, albeit a very strong one, to try to preserve what is obvious they are going to lose. Mind you, we still have to survive these times, because the power is there to destroy all life on Earth, but barring that, the well-vaunted Age of Aquarius is just starting, and it is not a painless birth. Birth seldom is painless, or without its risks.
          What we missed as we celebrated the New Age was that it does not just happen overnight. First there comes the love and conception, read the 1960s and into the 70s, then the pregnancy. NO ONE TOLD US ABOUT THE PREGNANCY.
          But if it took over 10 years to conceive, then it will take ar least 90 years before the birth. Remember we are not talking Earth years, or even human years, but cosmic years. Then a birth will happen, followed by a period of finally coming to consciousness. Of course, nothing is WRITTEN IN STONE, but the possibilities are there. We just need to continue allowing them to happen.

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          • This is a very eloquent and reasoned argument rawgod, and the invoking of Aquarius and the birth pangs makes it ‘durn’ hard to argue against.
            I would love to be proven wrong and in (say) 100 years’ time some historian looking through the vast amount of comments in the social media archive might chance upon our discourse and note your perception and foresight in comparison to my gloomy ‘typical of the post WWII European generation’ scared by centuries of warfare and inured to the concept of more’. I could sit up there taking a break from ethereally soaring around the solar system (I’ve put my application in) and say ‘Yep. I missed that. Must try and find the spirit of that rawgod guy and we can have a good chuckle over this’.
            Although I agree and have maintained Trump as a person is Nothing but a symptom, part of a Gesalt which remains deep in a part of one portion of the American psyche, this in itself in part of a bigger and more tragic volume played out in many regions over many centuries. Suspicion, Hate, Greed, Conflict.
            I guess I have to draw comparisons of the 1950s/1960s/early 70s movements towards enlightenment, harmony and peace with the odd and its unsettling distant cousin of Socialism (This would be the European state run version and not the boogy-man version of the American Right). For a movement to have effect and traction it needs a constant input and affirmation to the core beliefs. In both cases too many folk embraced these in their youth had their time, then drifted away into conformity. Of those who remained some carried the banner and stuck to the core beliefs, some sunk into a bitterness of betrayal and some went off on curious tangents. (UK Socialism for instance is riven with bitterness and bigotries of the mirror image to the American Alt Right)
            As I view the world today and think back to the parallels of the past my own gloomy European perspective is unless the state hunts out the bigots, the hate-mongers and theirs followers, there will be no progress. This view falls apart under examination because it assumes the state is administered from top to bottom by saint-like ethical folk of a paternalistic outlook….(Never going to happen kid-admit it).
            In the final analysis all we can do as individuals is try to adhere to Compassion, Respect and Tolerance, turning our backs on those who preach otherwise.
            And fight our own personal demonics aggressions and prejudices (looking in a mirror here).
            Take care friend.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Good try, sir, but I do have a reply to that. i am going to try to be humourous to hide the serious from happenstance conservative/republican/tory/populist wanderers who come upon our discussion under false pretenses, but really I am serious as hell would be to a christian sinner, of which there are more than most christians want to admit to, my words will be prophetic on at least one futture alternate level of being.

              Many pregnancies end early, sometimes naturally by what we call miscarriage, or unnarurally, by what we call abortion. Is the pregnancy centering around the birth of the Age of Aquarius stoppable by either means? Of course, but where is that pregnancy taking place? Is it a cosmic event centered in only one womb, or is it spread over many wombs? If the former, it is possible the Age of Aquarius will never come to term, for whatever reason. However, we are fortunate that it will not be stopped by abortion, because the very people who want to stop that pregnancy contrarily do not believe in abortion. They have gone so far as to pass laws against abortion. So, should this pregnancy not suffer from natural miscarriage, the opposition has shot themselves in the foot. The pregnancy must be allowed to come to term.
              My own position tends to the latter, as in many pregnancies spread over huge areas. The law of averages (is there still such a law?) states that at least some of those pregnancies come to term and at least one Child of Aquarius must survive to become an adult. Though the more adult children to survive the better the chances the Age of Aquarius will come into being, all it really takes is one such being, and the Ages will continue as first theorized by ancient astrologers, who became present day astronomers.
              So, sir, feel free to hope but disbelieve in equal amounts, because neither you nor any number of pessimists (including me, btw, to a certain extent) or cynics can stand in the way of spiritual evolution.
              I have examined the past, studied the present, and theorized the future. It is more likely the Age of Aquarius must come to pass.
              And I would love to set up a meeting a hundred earth years from now to look at the universe through our spiritual eyes, but my form of reincarnation does not allow for that. Individual spirits do not survive the process of death and returning to that force which we know as life. Bits of our spirits will meet as we meld into the eternal infinity known to us as the cosmos.Just look for the gene with the peace symbol t-shirt. That will be the only recognizable bit of the part of life presently known as rawgod. What should I look for, if I see you first? I’ll bring a cup of primordial soup for us to share. It is still the birthing place of life on earth , because left to its own devices, new life is always being created, and will always be evolving…

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              • Although we are obviously separated at this time by a vast distance of beliefs and perceptions on this issue I reckon at some stage we will meet around the other side of the Universe, because as we journey far enough out we are bound to meet eventually.
                Safe travellings to you

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                • I doubt the differences are that great, just differently interpreted. “Everything that is” is connected to “everything else that is” in “every possible way” they can be connected. Each to all, all to each. There are uncountable trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of living beings in the cosmos, yet there is only one life, and we are it. We are already connected, and cannot be disconnected. This is the essence of spiritual evolution. This is the essence of “me.”

                  Liked by 2 people

    • I’m not sure if you liked it or not … hope you did, though! You’re right … the choices were far fewer back in the day than they are now … still, I long for “back in the day”.


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