Mother and Child Reunion – Paul Simon

THIS DAY IN MUSIC………………………………….on February 6th of 1972 Paul Simon releases his first new song without Art Garfunkel, “Mother and Child Reunion”, which will peak at number four in the US. Simon got the idea for the song’s title from a chicken-and-egg dish called Mother and Child Reunion that he saw on a Chinese restaurant’s menu. The song was recorded at Dynamic Sounds Studios at Torrington Bridge in Kingston, Jamaica, with Jimmy Cliff‘s backing group. Guitarist Huks (“Hux”) Brown and bass guitarist Jackie Jackson were also long-time members of Toots & the Maytals. Cissy Houston sang background vocals on the recording. The song was recorded before writing lyrics, which was unusual for Simon. He had previously hoped to make “Why Don’t You Write Me”— a song recorded with Art Garfunkel on Bridge over Troubled Water—to sound like a Jamaican song, but felt it ended up sounding like a “bad imitation.” Simon was instructed by the musicians on the differences among reggae, ska, and bluebeat. He felt awkward at first because he was “the only white guy there and I was American.” Simon later overdubbed piano and vocals to the track back in New York. Simon wrote this in response to the Jimmy Cliff song “Vietnam,” where a mother receives a letter about her son’s death on the battlefield. Simon recorded “Mother and Child Reunion” in Jamaica, hence the very authentic sound. Simon said of the song that it “became the first reggae hit by a non-Jamaican white guy outside Jamaica.” Paul Simon was ahead of the trend when he released this reggae-infused song: Johnny Nash went to #1 US later in 1972 with “I Can See Clearly Now,” and Eric Clapton topped the chart with “I Shot The Sheriff” (a Bob Marley cover) in 1974.