Fog's rollin' in off the East River bank
Like a shroud it covers Bleecker Street
Fills the alleys where men sleep
Hides the shepherd from the sheep

Voices leaking from a sad cafe
Smiling faces try to understand
I saw a shadow touch a shadow's hand
On Bleecker Street

The poet reads his crooked rhyme
Holy, holy is his sacrament
Thirty dollars pays your rent
On Bleecker Street

I head a church bell softly chime
In a melody sustainin'
It's a long road to Canaan
On Bleecker Street

Bleecker Street

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"Bleecker Street" as written by Paul Simon


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Bleecker Street song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentBleecker Street runs through the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan. It is sort of the east coast equivalent of Haight Street in San Francisco, a place where countercultural (hippy, beatnik, etc.)stuff tends to happen.

    The poet reading his crooked rhyme seems to be based on Allen Ginsberg, since his "Footnote to Howl" repeats the word "holy" quite a few times.

    The thirty dollar rent is a definite clue that this is not a new song! Thirty dollars won't even get you a day's rent in New York City these days!
    Jerrybearon April 28, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentYeah, great song, harmonising at its best but has anyone noticed that the idiot who posted these lyrics spelt Bleecker Street wrong? Its on the CD case for poo's sake.
    Ed Clarkeon April 14, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentNO comments?! Not ONE? Goodbye cruel world, it's over.

    Lots of obscuring going on here…"voices leaking," shadows touching shadows, the shepherd losing his flock…and lots of religious imagery…Canaan takes on meaning as "the land which is God's gift" and "the place of abundance"…I guess S&G don't see humanity reaching enlightenment any time soon.
    switcherooon March 14, 2012   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationObviously a nostalgic ode to New York's Greenwhich Village, which is home to Bleeker Street. This was the artsiest ("a poet reads crooked rhymes") and grimiest neighborhood of the City in their time, probably related to its being the most affordable. "$30 pays your rent."
    elh2780on June 10, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti've read an art garfunkel quote saying that the "thirty dollars pays your rent" is actually a reference to the bible- though i don't recall exactly how. i think there are several throughout the song- road to caanan, the shepards from the sheep. i'd give the link, but i don't remember what the website was...

    beautiful song, though.
    howtobegoodon April 20, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentnice song, bleecker Street is now a street that is what the whole city is about.
    pandorason October 07, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThirty dollars pays your rent is a reference to Jesus being sold for pieces of silver. At least that's what Artie says! I obviously read the same quote as you, howtobegood!
    I shiver every time I hear "shadows touch a shadows hand" bit. Beautifully sung, beautifully written, and a gorgeous underrated song.
    starangelon May 03, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNote: In the gospels it mentions for 30 peices of silver Judas turned Jesus over to the athorities.
    Shadow or shade was used in medieval times for a soul or spirit.
    Canaan is an ancient country in what is now Israel/Palestine including the West Bank, western Jordan, southern and coastal Syria and Lebanon continuing up until the border of modern Turkey; and has several biblical meanings.
    From the back of the original 33 liner notes by Art Garfunkel:

    quote "I confess that Bleecker Street (finished in October 1963), was too much for me at first. The song is highly intellectual, the symbolism extremely challenging. The opening line in which the fog comes like a "shroud" over the city introduces the theme of "creative sterility." But it is the second verse which I find particularly significant:
    Voices leaking from a sad cafe,
    Smiling faces try to undersand;
    I saw a shadow touch a shadow's hand
    On Bleecker street.

    The first line is a purely poetic image. The second line touches poignantly on the human conditions of our time. To me, it shows the same perceptive psychological characterization as Sparrow - the "golden wheat" ("I would if I could but I cannot, I know"). The third line marks the first appearance of a theme that is to occupy great attention in later work- "lack of communication."
    The author says that the poets have "sold out" ("the poet writes his crooked rhyme"). The line "Thirt dollars pays your rent" reminds one of Judas Iscariot's betrayal of Christ for thirty pieces of silver. Admittedly, the song is difficult to understand, but worth the effort." end quote
    jimmer-the-greaton December 10, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwish I could get a room on Bleeker Street for thirty dollars!
    individual265on June 18, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentbeautiful song, clearly some biblical references and symbolism.
    it seems to me that the shroud covering the streets is something unpure or unholy.
    as it hides the sheperd from his sheep.
    maybe it's hiding god(the sheperd) from his people(the sheep)?
    mchughon December 05, 2007   Link

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