In September of 1971 Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary went Top 25 with "Wedding Song (There Is Love)", a maudlin paean to marriage that was embraced by many a young girl going to the altar. In March of 1972 Roberta Flack's big break-through hit, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", brought more slow motion to pop radio - a song originally recorded in 1969. How did those two unlikely musical moments happen? One has to credit the four minute and fifteen second debut of Carly Simon as the watershed moment for a mellowing of the airwaves, the tempo of Vanilla Fudge meeting the intensity of soul music by way of a folk singer. Hitting the top 10 in June of 1971, Elektra single 45724 was an interesting way for an emerging artist to break into the world of pop stardom. Co-written by Jacob Brackman, the man who would be a long time collaborator with Carly Simon, the song was for Elektra Records their post-Doors pre-Queen perfect complement to David Gates' Bread, though far more mellow than even that soft rock ensemble. Her mom reading magazines, her father smoking, the little girl is about to spread her wings and leave the nest. The odd aspect of the alleged love song is that there's nothing about falling head over heels in love inside the story line, the singer sounds like she's accepting the proposal with as much excitement as going to the market, getting a job, or resigning herself to writing a term paper. "Soon you'll cage me on your shelf" and the regret of not having the luxury of being selfish.
It's an indictment against the institution of marriage (which should have horrified the Religious Right), she sees her parents having their space and the assessment of it seems so hollow. "They hate themselves for what they are" the narrator notes as the piano plays so simple awaiting the big drum sound. The voice, keys and percussion are immaculately combined by producer and Led Zeppelin engineer Eddie Kramer. It's a very pretty song with stunning ambiance, but about as appropriate for a marriage as Sting's song of stalking, "Every Breath You Take". For those who did get the sentiment Paul Stookey's overwrought emotion must have been a Godsend. The good news is that Simon discovered passion, a honeymoon and some real happiness for a time when she married James Taylor. Her methodical and artistic reading of this tale paved the way and helped her get a Best New Artist Grammy in the process. In Jac Holzman's book Follow the Music - the story of Elektra records - an interview with Simon states that she wrote the music for "a TV documentary called Who Killed Lake Erie? a very early environmental documentary." She gave the music to Jacob Brackman who wrote the lyrics to this, their first collaboration, and their first hit.