"Perhaps bearing out Simon's greatest fears, most of the cover artists are the light-entertainment crew, attracted as ever to a warm sentiment gently expressed, but also to what the song offers in the way of a work-out or challenge—the assault on Mount Garfunkel. Why do they do it? Because it's there. Tom Jones, Andy Williams, Shirley Bassey, Nana Mouskouri—each has headed for the summit, coming on all dreamy and comforting in the foothills and ascending with various degrees of smoothness to wax noisy and masterful in the third verse. It is the choirboy Aled Jones who gets closest to Garfunkel's unstrained purity (Best of Aled Jones, BBC, 1985), but as his voice hadn't broken when he made his attempt, he may have to be disqualified for cheating.
"But vocal heavyweights, too, have gone for the song. Paul Simon said, directly after its composition, that he could hear Aretha Franklin singing it and Franklin's 1971 recording (Aretha's Greatest Hits, Atlantic) makes a different kind of music altogether, hearing those gospel traces in the tune and lyrics and pursuing them hard. Itself a Top 10 American hit and a Grammy winner, her version glows like a devotional candle.
"Elvis Presley, meanwhile, was in a position to go either way with the song: much to Simon's disappointment, what the King delivered on Magic Moments was more Andy Williams than Aretha Franklin. 'It was in his Las Vegas period and done with conventional thinking: it kind of imitated the Simon and Garfunkel record. He sang it well, but it would have been nice to hear him do it gospel because he did so many gospel albums and was a good white gospel singer. It would have been nice to hear him do it that way, take it back - as opposed to the big ending; he seemed to end everything with a karate chop and an explosion. So he didn't really add anything to the song. It's not nearly as significant as the Aretha Franklin recording. It's just a pleasure for me that Elvis Presley recorded one of my songs before he died.'"
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