Print Shortlink

Simon & Garfunkel

Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon were childhood friends and made their first appearance together in an elementary school production of Alice in Wonderland:  Art played The Cheshire Cat and Paul played The White Rabbit.  Although acting would eventually become something of a second career for both men, they focused on music, becoming a part of the mid-’50s doo-wop craze.

They copyrighted their first song, “The Girl For Me”, in 1955.  Art and Paul started their collaboration as a duo under the moniker of Tom and Jerry.  One of their songs, “Hey, Schoolgirl” impressed Big Records honcho Sid Prosen, who helped them market the recording in New York City, selling about 150,000 copies and scoring a modest #57 on the Billboard pop chart.  This led to an appearance on American Bandstand, where they had to follow Jerry Lee Lewis banging the keys on “Great Balls of Fire”.  It did not translate into overnight success.

Art and Paul opted to attend college, Art at Columbia University and Paul at Queens College.  They re-united in 1963, recording some of Paul’s compositions for an album entitled Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m.  The album was released on 19th October 1964, to little fanfare.

It took a little bit of tinkering to manufacture Simon & Garfunkel’s first hit.  The duo was on hiatus; one of many; when producer Tom Wilson decided to over-dub “The Sounds of Silence” with electric bass, electric guitar, and drums, then released it as a single, all without Art’s or Paul’s consent.  The song rocketed to #1, soothing whatever egos may have been bruised, and Simon & Garfunkel hastily re-united to record an album bearing the title of the song.  The Sounds of Silence peaked at #21 on the Billboard Top 200, and regenerated interest in Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m., which reached an admirable #30.  The big hit from The Sounds of Silence was “I Am A Rock”, which shot to #3 in 1966, followed closely by “Homeward Bound”, which reached #5.  Simon & Garfunkel supported the album with a tour of the States.

A spate of albums followed:  Bob Johnston quickly had the pair in studio for Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, featuring; you guessed it; “Scarborough Fair/Canticle”.  It peaked at #11 on the Billboard pop chart on 20th April 1968.  In the meantime, Simon & Garfunkel had been solicited for a little film project:  Mike Nichols was so enamoured of their music that he asked them to write some songs for The Graduate.  Paul had been working on a song tentatively titled “Mrs. Roosevelt” and quickly compromised the title to fit the name of Anne Bancroft’s character in the film, Mrs. Robinson.  Other songs in the film were re-recordings of “The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine”, “Scarborough Fair”, and “The Sounds of Silence”.  The soundtrack topped the charts and was quickly succeeded by Bookends, the album Art and Paul were working on during The Graduate.  Bookends featured what have become Simon & Garfunkel standards:  ” America”, “At the Zoo”, “A Hazy Shade of Winter”, and “Mrs. Robinson”, which went to #1.  At one time, Bookends and The Graduate were both in the top five.  To cap off a banner year, “Mrs. Robinson” won the Record of the Year Grammy, and Paul received an additional Grammy for Best Original Score, even though the incidental music was written by Dave Grusin.  Art and Paul supported both albums with a tour in 1969.

On 26th January 1970, the duo released Bridge Over Troubled Water, the title track of which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six consecutive weeks.  Other big hits followed:  “The Boxer” went to #7, “Cecilia” to #4, and “El Condor Pasa” to #18.  The album stayed atop the Billboard Top 200 for ten weeks running, going platinum thirteen times over.  Again, Art and Paul hit the road in support of the album.  Grammys were showered upon the record and its title track:  Album of the Year, Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists, Best Contemporary Song, Best Engineered Record of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year.  It is eclipsed in sales in the Simon & Garfunkel catalogue only by their Greatest Hits, which went platinum fourteen times and holds the record for the largest-selling album by a musical duo.

At the height of their popularity, Simon & Garfunkel broke up; again.  It didn’t take long for them to re-unite, however.  They appeared in tandem at a benefit for presidential hopeful George McGovern at Madison Square Garden in the summer of ’72.  The reunion was short-lived.  Simon & Garfunkel did not appear together again until 18th October 1975 on Saturday Night Live.  They were asked to perform three songs, including “My Little Town”, the first unofficial Simon & Garfunkel recording since the salad days of the late ’60s.  It peaked at #9 on the Billboard pop chart on 13thDecember 1975.

Although Art and Paul would collaborate with James Taylor on a cover version of “What A Wonderful World”, their days of recording together were over, at least for several years.  They reunited on 19th September 1981 for the now-famous concert in Central Park, which attracted over half a million fans, and was captured on vinyl.  They followed this in 1982 with an international tour that lasted until the following year.  Apparently, a year was enough.  Simon & Garfunkel split up for the third time; or was it the fourth; and did not appear together again until their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1990.

Friends again, the pair performed a series of charity events and twenty-one concerts in the New York area, and then toured the Far East.  They broke up for the fourth time; or was it the fifth; in 1994, but this time the divorce was amiable.  Three years later, in concert with Roy Halee and Bob Irwin, they put together a boxed set of rare and re-tooled Simon & Garfunkel music, entitled Old Friends.  It was to be their last collaboration until the 2003 Grammys, where they sang for their supper; or in this case, their Lifetime Achievement Award.  Appropriately, their song of choice was “The Sounds of Silence”.  This sparked interest among their fans; and themselves; for yet another reunion tour.  Titled “Old Friends”, the tour enlisted the talents of drummer Jim Keltner and bassist PinoPalladino, et al, and spanned in excess of thirty cities in the States, then led to a 25-performance “encore” in Europe, culminating with a concert at The Colosseum, no less, drawing over 600,000 fans.  Highlights of the tour have been immortalized on CD and DVD.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina reunited Simon & Garfunkel, as well as scores of other artists, for a benefit concert at Madison Square Garden.  A DVD, From the Big Apple to the Big Easy:  The Concert for New Orleans, was released in 2006.

In 2007, Paul received the inaugural Gershwin Award, and invited Art Garfunkel to share the stage with him.  The same year saw them enshrined in the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. They performed together again in 2010.

The asteroid #91287 bears the name Simon-Garfunkel.

Simon & Garfunkel recordings
The Sounds of Silence (Paul Simon)
We’ve Got A Groovey Thing Goin’ (Paul Simon)