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  • Writer's pictureVinnie Favale

50 [Actual] Ways To Leave Your Lover!

It was Paul Simon's biggest solo hit and remains one of his most requested songs. It's provocative title was one the first examples of "click bait" in pop culture and its lyrics remained unfinished...until now!

Paul Simon is one of the greatest songwriters of our generation. If he had done nothing else after his stellar career with Art Garfunkel, he still would have rightfully earned his place in the R&R Hall Of Fame. But he did forge an incredible solo career and oh what a body of work. His songs have been covered by some of the greatest singers of all time including Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Paul McCartney. With a career that goes back to writing and singing demos with Carole King during the Brill Building days, Paul Simon is a songwriter's songwriter. He found inspiration from everything around him including a cleverly named Chicken and Egg dish on a Chinese restaurant menu (“Mother And Child Reunion”) and turned it into a top five song in 1972. A huge fan of reggae music, Simon recorded that song in Jamaica with Jimmy Cliff’s backup band. Simon’s musical curiosity took him all over the world including South Africa where he re-invented himself yet again with the seminal “Graceland” album. Who else could make a lyric like "the boy in the bubble and the baby with the baboon heart” work as perfectly as he could in a song?

In 1975, Simon had a quasi reunion with Art Garfunkel on “My Little Town’. The song was featured on both Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” and Garfunkel’s “Breakaway” albums. Simon’s brilliant turn of phrase in the album’s title is evident in how that expression has now become a common description of a certain type of person.   That album also featured “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” one of Simon’s most famous songs. Here’s the entry from Wikipedia;

"50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" was Paul Simon's biggest solo hit and broke in the US in late 1975. It hit number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 on February 7, 1976 (his only number one on that chart as a solo act), soaring from number ten the previous week, and remained there for three weeks; it topped the adult contemporary chart for two weeks. It was certified gold on March 11, 1976, and remained a best seller for nearly five months. Billboard ranked it as the No. 8 song of 1976.

 “50 Way’s To Leave Your Lover” is an incredible song. The marching drumbeat by Steve Gadd is hypnotic. The backup vocals by the legendary Patti Austin, Valerie Simpson and Phoebe Snow echo Simon’s voice in a mesmerizing way. And Phil Ramone is at the top of his game with his production of the song. 

I’m sure by now, based on this blog’s title you are expecting a “but”…well here it comes. One of the greatest songwriters of all time decided to record this song without completing the lyrics! This song is the click bait of pop music! Simon starts off with a great premise in its provocative title. When I first heard about the song I was intrigued. What a lyrical challenge he set up for himself. Are there really fifty ways to leave your lover? How many are illegal? As the title promises we were about to find out. He starts off fine and it’s clear that “the ways to leave" will all be silly and fun [“slip out the back Jack…make a new plan Stan”) . He also set’s us quite the challenge by limiting himself to one syllable names. But if anyone could pull that off, it would certainly be “Rhymin' Simon”. The song has a nice groove (that drum pattern) and it all works…until it doesn't. Simon gets to number five…and then he just...stops. I understand that he was working under the constraints of top forty pop music, which in most cases dictates that a song should be just a little over three minutes. But still, how do you title a song “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” and only give five examples?

And just who exactly is this person in the song that is giving Simon all of this information? Is it his therapist? A well meaning friend who can’t count past five?  I do have to give Simon some credit in that he did leave himself a little lyrical loophole (say that fast three times) with the usage of the word “MUST” in the lyric. The character in the song is obviously speculating and just assumes "there must be fifty ways". But alas, that’s not the title of the song.

So here is my attempt to finish up what Simon started in 1975 (not that anyone asked). It wasn’t easy and by the time I got to the 35th way, I was ready to give up. I was running out of forms of transportation AND one syllable, men's names! Maybe Paul Simon was right to stop at five. But I kept at it and here it is…”50 [Actual] Ways To Leave Your Lover”.

Special thanks to Eric Garner for channeling his inner Paul Simon into singing and playing this!

"50 [Actual] Ways To Leave Your Lover"

"The problem is all inside your head", she said to me

"The answer is easy if you take it logically

I'd like to help you in your struggle to be free

There must be fifty ways to leave your lover"

She said, "it's really not my habit to intrude

Furthermore, I hope my meaning won't be lost or misconstrued

But I'll repeat myself at the risk of being crude

There must be fifty ways to leave your lover

Fifty ways to leave your lover"

You just slip out the back, Jack #1

Make a new plan, Stan #2

You don't need to be coy, Roy #3

Just listen to me

Hop on the bus, Gus #4

You don't need to discuss much

Just drop off the key, Lee #5

And get yourself free

You just walk out the house, Klaus #6

Make a new goal, Cole #7

No need to show fear, Amir #8

Just listen to me

Hop on the plane, Dwayne #9

You don't need to complain Dane #10

Just drop off the rent, Kent #11

And get yourself free

You just make an excuse, Bruce #12

Cause a diversion, Irwin #13

No need to feel guilty, Miltey #14

Just listen to me

Hop on the train, Blaine #15

You don't need to refrain Lane #16

Just give her the slip Kip #17

And get yourself free

Say your going to jail, Gael #18

Plead out your case, Jayce #19

You don't need to be shy, Guy #20

Just listen to me

Put on the brakes, Blake #21

You don't need to debate Nate #22

Just drop off the bike, Mike #23

And get yourself free

You just slip out of sight, Dwight #24

Make a new choice, Royce #25

Pretend that your ill, Bill #26

Just listen to me

Hop on the ferry Perry #27

You don't need to be wary Jerry #28

Just switch up the scene, Ian #29

And get yourself free

You just slip out the den, Glen #30

It’s time for a brake, Jake #31

Don’t even debate, Tate #32

Just listen to me

Go for a stroll, Joel #33

You just need to be bold Noel #34

Don’t say where you’re goin, Rowan #35

And get yourself free

You just exit the row, Beau #36

Turn a new page, Gage #37

You don't need to regret, Chet #38

Just listen to me

Hide in the forest, Morris #39

You need to be shrewd Jude #40

Just exit the scene, Dean #41

And get yourself free

You just send her a text, Rex #42

Go on the lamb, Sam #43

You don't need to be lax, Max #44

Just listen to me

Go over the wall, Paul #45

Don’t be a schmuck, Chuck #46

Stop playing games, James #47

And get yourself free

You just slip out the side, Clyde #48

Make a new creed, Reed #49

You don't need to be grim, Tim #50

Just listen to me

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