“They say that Richard Cory owns one half of this whole town” – so begins Richard Cory, the folk song recorded by Simon and Garfunkel on Sounds of Silence, their second studio album, in 1966. Written by Paul Simon about the divide between rich and poor, appearances and truth, the song was inspired by Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem Richard Cory, published in 1897. Concise and elegant, Robinson’s poem about the man who “glittered when he walked” ends in a dramatic twist. After reading the final lines – “Richard Cory, one calm summer night,/Went home and put a bullet through his head.” – you might think twice about envying Richard Cory.
But in Simon’s version, there is no escaping the oppression of poverty “But I work in his factory/and I curse the life I’m living.” Even knowing Cory’s ultimate end, the refrain returns: “Oh, I wish that I could be/Richard Cory.” Maybe that’s what’s wrong with us these days: even when we know the truth about the rich and powerful, the lies and contradictions, we still want to be just like them. Or do we?
In the spirit of the times, and thinking about our current Richard Cory (I don’t even want to type his name and add to the hype, but here’s a clue: “The papers print his picture almost everywhere he goes”), MONC (Men of North Country) and OSOG (On The Shoulders of Giants) have each recorded their own version of the song. Enjoy! Come hear both bands in a double show at Bascula, Thursday, January 26, 2017. Details & links on the facebook event and Midnight Music Calendar.