"Mrs. Robinson" is a song by American music duo Simon & Garfunkel from their fourth studio album, Bookends (1968). The song was released as a single on April 5, 1968 by Columbia Records. Produced by the duo and Roy Halee, it is famous for its association with the 1967 film The Graduate. The song was written by Paul Simon, who pitched it to director Mike Nichols alongside Art Garfunkel after Nichols rejected two other songs intended for the film. Although The Graduate (soundtrack) album features two versions of "Mrs. Robinson", neither is the full version as featured on Bookends. It was additionally released on the "Mrs. Robinson 'EP'" in 1968 containing three other songs from the film: April Come She Will, Scarborough Fair/Canticle, and The Sound of Silence.
One of side-A labels of the US vinyl single crediting The Graduate as the source of the song. Another pressing credits the song's parent album Bookends as the source.
|Single by Simon & Garfunkel|
|from the album Bookends and The Graduate|
|Released||April 5, 1968|
|Recorded||February 2, 1968|
|Simon & Garfunkel singles chronology|
Artwork for the Dutch vinyl single; its similar variant mentions The Graduate above the song title
"Mrs. Robinson" became the duo's second chart-topper, hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as peaking within the top 10 of the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Spain, among other countries. In 1969, it became the first rock song to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. The song contains a famous reference to baseball star Joe DiMaggio. The song has been covered by a number of artists, including Frank Sinatra, the Lemonheads, and Bon Jovi. In 2004, it finished at No. 6 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.
Simon & Garfunkel reached national fame in the United States in 1965–66, touring colleges and releasing a string of hit singles and albums. Meanwhile, director Mike Nichols, then filming The Graduate, became fascinated with the duo's past two efforts, listening to them nonstop before and after filming. After two weeks of this obsession, he met with Columbia Records chairman Clive Davis to ask for permission to license Simon & Garfunkel music for his film. Davis viewed it as a perfect fit and envisioned a best-selling soundtrack album. Simon was not as immediately receptive, viewing movies as akin to "selling out", but he agreed to write at least one or two new songs for the film after being impressed by Nichols' wit and the script. Leonard Hirshan, a powerful agent at William Morris, negotiated a deal that paid Simon $25,000 to submit three songs to Nichols and producer Lawrence Turman.
Several weeks later, Simon re-emerged with two new tracks, "Punky's Dilemma" and "Overs", neither of which Nichols was particularly taken with. Nichols asked if the duo had any more songs to offer, and after a break from the meeting, they returned with an early version of "Mrs. Robinson". They had been working on a track titled "Mrs. Roosevelt", and returned to perform it for Nichols. He was ecstatic about the song, later commenting, "They filled in with dee de dee dee de dee dee dee because there was no verse yet, but I liked even that." Garfunkel later expanded upon the song's placement in The Graduate:
Paul had been working on what is now 'Mrs. Robinson', but there was no name in it and we’d just fill in with any three-syllable name. And because of the character in the picture we just began using the name 'Mrs. Robinson' to fit […] and one day we were sitting around with Mike talking about ideas for another song. And I said ‘What about Mrs. Robinson.' Mike shot to his feet. 'You have a song called "Mrs. Robinson" and you haven’t even shown it to me?' So we explained the working title and sang it for him. And then Mike froze it for the picture as 'Mrs. Robinson'.
The film version employs a Bo Diddley Beat, unlike the studio version. The final version of "Mrs. Robinson" was completed on February 2, 1968, at Columbia Studio A in New York City. The recording was released more than three months after the release of The Graduate, but through its numerous radio plays became an important cross-promotion of the film during its initial run in theaters. A louder and punchier bass drum is present on the promo mix, which was done to accommodate for the limited dynamic range produced by AM radio.
References in the last verse to Joe DiMaggio are perhaps the most discussed. Simon, a fan of Mickey Mantle, was asked during an intermission on The Dick Cavett Show why Mantle was not mentioned in the song instead of DiMaggio. Simon replied, "It's about syllables, Dick. It's about how many beats there are." Simon happened to meet DiMaggio at a New York City restaurant in the 1970s, and the two immediately discussed the song. DiMaggio said "What I don't understand, is why you ask where I've gone. I just did a Mr. Coffee commercial, I'm a spokesman for the Bowery Savings Bank and I haven't gone anywhere!" Simon replied "that I didn't mean the lines literally, that I thought of him as an American hero and that genuine heroes were in short supply. He accepted the explanation and thanked me. We shook hands and said good night". In a New York Times op-ed in March 1999, shortly after DiMaggio's death, Simon discussed this meeting and explained that the line was meant as a sincere tribute to DiMaggio's unpretentious and modest heroic stature, in a time when popular culture magnifies and distorts how we perceive our heroes. He further reflected: "In these days of Presidential transgressions and apologies and prime-time interviews about private sexual matters, we grieve for Joe DiMaggio and mourn the loss of his grace and dignity, his fierce sense of privacy, his fidelity to the memory of his wife and the power of his silence". Simon subsequently performed "Mrs. Robinson" at Yankee Stadium in DiMaggio's honor shortly after his death in 1999.
Awards and nominationsEdit
"Mrs. Robinson" was awarded two Grammy Awards at the 11th Annual Grammy Awards in 1969. It became the first rock song to win Record of the Year (although the previous year's "Up Up and Away" by the 5th Dimension could also be considered a contender) and it also was awarded the Grammy for Best Contemporary-Pop Performance – Vocal Duo or Group. The duo were asked to perform the song live at the ceremony, but they declined. Instead, they shot a video for the show set to the music that consisted of them "romping around Yankee Stadium," a reference to the song's lyrics concerning DiMaggio. "Mrs. Robinson" was ineligible for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, as a nominee must have been written exclusively for the film in which it appeared.
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||400,000|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||1,000,000^|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
In popular cultureEdit
Writer/actor/director Albert Brooks licensed Paul Simon’s music from “Mrs. Robinson” for his 1996 film Mother. Brooks and Monica Johnson wrote special lyrics for the song, which was recorded as “Mrs. Henderson,” and referenced Brooks’ character’s mother. Voice actors Steve Lively and Jess Harnell provided sound-alike vocals, impersonating Simon & Garfunkel on the track, which was produced by Marc Shaiman, who also composed and produced the film's score.
In early January 2010, after news of Iris Robinson (wife of Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson) having an extramarital affair with the (40 years younger) adult child of a family friend became public, a group was set up on Facebook attempting to get the song "Mrs. Robinson" to No.1 in the Official UK Singles Chart for that week via download sales. It received coverage in The Telegraph and other British media.
Frank Sinatra versionEdit
One of the earliest well-known cover versions of this song was by Frank Sinatra for his 1969 album My Way. This version changes a number of lines, including replacing "Jesus" with "Jilly" and including a new verse directly referring to Mrs. Robinson's activities in The Graduate. Writing in The complete guide to the music of Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel, Chris Charlesworth writes that Sinatra's word-change was "senseless", motivated by the refusal of some radio stations to play the song because of the word "Jesus".
The Lemonheads versionEdit
|Single by The Lemonheads|
|from the album It's a Shame About Ray|
|The Lemonheads singles chronology|
The Lemonheads recorded a punk-inflected cover version of this song in 1992 that made it to No. 18 on the US Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100, No. 8 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart, and the top 20 in Australia and New Zealand. In Ireland and the United Kingdom—where the song also reached the top 20—"Mrs. Robinson" was released as a double A-side with "Being Around". Although not originally included on The Lemonheads' album It's A Shame About Ray, the album was re-released with the cover of "Mrs. Robinson" included after the single's chart success.
The band's frontman, Evan Dando, later told American Songwriter that he "hated" the song as well as its author and that its recording was only to promote a 25th anniversary home video release of The Graduate. He noted that Simon greatly disliked the cover, but Garfunkel was more favorable toward it. This version was featured in The Wolf of Wall Street. It also received coverage in gay-related publications because of the anti-gay principles of Peter Robinson.
|Australian Top 20 Alternative Singles (ARIA)||1|
|Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)||67|
Double A-side with "Being Around"
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||9|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)
Double A-side with "Being Around"
|US Alternative Airplay (Billboard)||8|
|US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard)||18|
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