Simon & Garfunkel : El Condor Pasa (1970)

El Condor Pasa


[Verse 1: Paul Simon]
I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail
Yes I would
If I could
I surely would
I’d rather be a hammer than a nail
Yes I would
If I only could
I surely would

[Bridge: Art Garfunkel]
Away, I’d rather sail away
Like a swan that’s here and gone
A man gets tied up to the ground
He gives the world
Its saddest sound
Its saddest sound

[Verse 2: Paul Simon]
I’d rather be a forest than a street
Yes I would
If I could
I surely would
I’d rather feel the earth beneath my feet
Yes I would
If I only could
I surely would


El Cóndor Pasa (pronounced [el ˈkondor pasa], Spanish for “The Condor Passes”) is an orchestral musical piece from the zarzuela El Cóndor Pasa by the Peruvian composer Daniel Alomía Robles, written in 1913 and based on traditional Andean music, specifically folk music from Peru.

Since then, it has been estimated that around the world, more than 4000 versions of the melody have been produced, along with 300 sets of lyrics. In 2004, Peru declared this song as part of the national cultural heritage.[1] This song is now considered the second national anthem of Peru.[citation needed]

It is the best-known Peruvian song in the English-speaking world due to a 1970 cover by Simon & Garfunkel on their Bridge over Troubled Water album. Their version is called “El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)“.

Original zarzuela version

In 1913, Peruvian songwriter Daniel Alomía Robles composed “El Cóndor Pasa”, and the song was first performed publicly at the Teatro Mazzi in Lima.[2] The song was originally a musical piece in the Peruvian zarzuela (musical play), El cóndor pasa.

Its music was composed by Daniel Alomía Robles in 1913 and its script was written by Julio de La Paz (pseudonym of the Limenian dramatist Julio Baudouin). The piano arrangement of this play’s most famous melody was legally registered on May 3, 1933 by The Edward B. Marks Music Corp. in the Library of Congress, under the number 9643. The zarzuela is written in prose and consists of one musical play and two acts.

In July 2013, the Colectivo Cultural Centenario El Cóndor Pasa cultural association re-edited the original script which had been lost for a period of time, and published it together with a CD containing the recorded dialogues and seven musical pieces. The music from the original score was reconstructed by musicologist Luis Salazar Mejía with the collaboration of musicians Daniel Dorival and Claude Ferrier and the support of cultural promoter Mario Cerrón Fetta, and re-released on November 14, 15, and 16, 2013 at the Teatro UNI in Lima to celebrate its first centenary. The zarzuela included the famous homonymous melody, without lyrics, based on the traditional Andean music of Peru, where it was declared a National Cultural Heritage in 2004.

Simon and Garfunkel version

“El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)”
File:El Condor Pasa cover by Sinon & Garfunkel.jpg
Single by Simon & Garfunkel
from the album Bridge Over Troubled Water
B-side Why Don’t You Write Me
Released September 1970
Format 7″ single
Recorded November 1968 and
November 1969
Genre Folk rock, worldbeat, Andean music
Length 3:06
Label Columbia
Songwriter(s) Daniel Alomía Robles (Music), Paul Simon (English lyrics), Jorge Milchberg (Arrangement)
Producer(s) Paul Simon,
Art Garfunkel,
Roy Halee
Simon & Garfunkel singles chronology
El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
Music video
“El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)” (audio) on YouTube

In 1965, the American musician Paul Simon heard for the first time a version of the melody by the band Los Incas in a performance at the Théâtre de l’Est parisien in Paris in which both were participating. Simon became friendly with Los Incas band, later even touring with them and producing their first US-American album. He asked the band for permission to use the song in his production. The band’s director and founding member Jorge Milchberg, who was collecting royalties for the song as co-author and arranger, responded erroneously that it was a traditional Peruvian composition. Milchberg told Simon he was registered as the arrangement’s co-author and collected royalties.

In 1970, the Simon & Garfunkel duo covered the Los Incas version, adding some English lyrics which in turn added Paul Simon to the author credits under the song name “El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)”. The instrumental version by Los Incas was used as the base track. They included the song on the 1970 album Bridge Over Troubled Water. Simon & Garfunkel released their version as a single in the U.S., which reached #18 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and #6 on the Easy Listening chart,[3] in fall 1970. This cover achieved major international success and fame.

In regards to the Simon & Garfunkel version, Daniel Alomía Robles, Jorge Milchberg, and Paul Simon are now all listed as songwriters, with Simon listed alone as the author of the English lyrics. However, Daniel Alomía Robles was not originally listed as the composer because Jorge Milchberg had told Simon that the song was considered an Andean folk melody. He further stated that he was the registered co-author and arrangement of the composition.

Copyright lawsuit

In late 1970, Daniel Alomía Robles’ son Armando Robles Godoy, a Peruvian filmmaker, filed a successful copyright lawsuit against Paul Simon. The grounds for the lawsuit extended that the song had been composed by his father, who had copyrighted the song in the United States in 1933.[2] Armando Robles Godoy said that he held no ill will towards Paul Simon for what he considered a “misunderstanding” and an “honest mistake”.[4]

“It was an almost friendly court case because Paul Simon was very respectful of other cultures. It was not carelessness on his part,” said Armando Robles Godoy.[4] “He happened to hear the song in Paris from a vernacular group Los Incas. He liked it, he went to ask the band for permission and they gave him the wrong information. Jorge Milchberg told him it was a traditional folk song from the 18th century and not my father’s composition. It was a court case without further complications.”[4]

Later that year, Perry Como released a cover of Paul Simon’s English version on his album It’s Impossible, while Julie Felix had a UK Top 20 hit with it, taking advantage of Simon & Garfunkel’s decision not to release their version as a UK single.[5]

Armando Robles Godoy subsequently wrote new Spanish lyrics for the song, taking Paul Simon’s version as a reference.

Chart performance

Chart (1970)[6] Peak
Australian Kent Music Report 1
Austrian Singles Chart[7] 1
Belgian Singles Chart (Flanders) 1
Dutch Singles Chart 1
New Zealand 14
Spanish Singles Chart[8] 1
Swiss Singles Chart 1
US Billboard Hot 100 18
US Billboard Easy Listening 6
West German Singles Chart 1

Other versions

  • Peruvian singer Yma Sumac recorded this song in 1959 in vocalise style without lyrics.
  • In France, Marie Laforêt performed her “Sur les chemins des Andes” (aka “Sur le chemin des Andes” aka “La flûte magique”) in 1966. It is said to be based on Jorge Milchberg’s adaptation.
  • In 1969 a jazz version was recorded and arranged by Don Sebesky for Paul Desmond‘s studio album Bridge over Troubled Water.
  • In 1970, Argentinean Quena virtuoso Facio Santillan recorded the piece for Riviera in Paris, France. It was a released as a single and on the album Flutes of the Andes Vol. 2.
  • In 1970, Karel Gott recorded this song in Czech under the original name El Condor Pasa. The lyrics were written by Jiří Štaidl.
  • Andy Williams released a version in 1970 on his album, The Andy Williams Show.
  • In 1971, Paul Mauriat and his orchestra covered this song on the album El Condor Pasa.
  • Esther Ofarim recorded the song with its original Spanish lyrics for her 1972 self-titled album.
  • In a 1980 episode of The Muppet Show, the song was given a parody treatment with nonsense rhymes by The Great Gonzo, earning the mock inspiration of guest star Paul Simon.
  • George Wright covered the song in his 1984 album Red Hot and Blue.[9]
  • A Dutch rendering entitled “Bouzouki’s Klinken Door De Nacht” was recorded by Ciska Peters (nl) in 1984.
  • The Coolies cover it on their 1986 album dig..?, along with eight other tongue-in-cheek covers of Simon & Garfunkel classics.
  • Argentinian pianist, Raul Di Blasio, included “El Cóndor Pasa” in his 1993 album Piano de América.[10]
  • In 1999, after the 1999 F-117A shootdown incident, Serbian media has made a parody of the song with lyrics that satirically describe the F-117‘s stealth technology.[11]
  • Romanian Pan flute musician, Gheorghe Zamfir, included “El Cóndor Pasa” in his 2008 album Spirit of the Andes.[12]
  • This song was used in the feature film Wild.[13]
  • In 2016, German Celtic folk band Fiddlers Green created a medley of El Condor Pasa and Bella Ciao to create a song Down.
  • Paul Simon himself performed the song on Sesame Street.
  • Italian singer Gigliola Cinquetti performed a cover with Italian lyrics.
  • The song was remixed for the Mushroom Gorge race track in Mario Kart Wii.[14]
  • Israeli folk duo The Parvarim released a Hebrew version of the song.
  • Spanish Eurodance DJ, DJ Sammy, has a Eurodance version on his album Heaven. This version has lyrics, however they are spoken and not the Simon and Garfunkel ones.
  • Twelve Girls Band recorded this song in the album “Romantic Energy” in 2004.
  • Brazilian Progressive Rock band, Vlad V, recorded this song on his album, Siga o Som in 2007. (Info by Luiz Mendes Tupã)
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