“On the side of a Hill”

The Paul Simon Song Book was a very popular album in the UK in the mid 1960s. I like it because it is how I imagine Paul Simon envisaged his songs to be presented … very simple guitar work, solo voice and strong lyrics.

“On the side of a hill”, while clearly an anti-war song, had an interesting future. A few of its lines were used (some had slight variations) in the harmonizing lyrics to Simon and Garfunkel’sĀ  recording of “Scarborough Fair”. I wonder what was going through Paul Simon’s mind, when he decided to take an English traditional folk song about love, and use anti-war song lyrics for the harmony? Just the contrast perhaps? Enjoy.

On the side of a hill in a land called Somewhere
A little boy lies asleep in the earth
While down in the valley a cruel war rages
And people forget what a child’s life is worth.

On the side of a hill, a little cloud weeps
And waters the grave with its silent tears
While a soldier cleans and polishes a gun
That ended a life at the age of seven years.

And the war rages on in the land called Somewhere
And generals order their men to kill
And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten
While the little cloud weeps on the side of a hill

** ***** **

Scarborough Fair Verses 3 & 4:

Tell her to find me an acre of land
(On the side of a hill a sprinkling of leaves)
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
(Washes the grave with silvery tears)
Between the salt water and the sea strands
(A soldier cleans and polishes a gun)
Then she’ll be a true love of mine.

Tell her to reap it with a sickle of leather
(War bellows blazing in scarlet battalions)
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
(Generals order their soldiers to kill)
And gather it all in a bunch of heather
(And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten)
Then she’ll be a true love of mine.

12 thoughts on ““On the side of a Hill”

  1. This album of Paul Simon’s solo songs involves quite a bit of history, when it was released and in later years, as I’m sure you know. The album cover alone with the photo of Paul and his teenaged girlfriend, Kathy Chitty, on a London street is a bit of history in itself. I always found it interesting that some of songs were later released as Simon and Garfunkel songs, such as Sound of Silence and Kathy’s Song. I do like this anti-war song presented by Paul in a simple and direct manner, just his voice and the guitar. To me, it remains as one of the best. Another great choice! Thank-you!

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    • While I am not averse to complex productions, there is certainly a place for simple arrangements to get a message across to the listener. Paul Simon did that so well in this album didn’t he. šŸ™‚


  2. Another moving song, “….only 7 years old.” A sad song but a very good one.
    I always liked the song “Scarborough Fair.” The correlation between the 2 of them that you pointed out is interesting.
    2 weeks in a row now I have recognized the names of the artists in your posts. I wonder if that trend will continue next week. šŸ™‚

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