Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel are popular American musicians and Singer-songwriters known collectively as Simon & Garfunkel. They formed the group Tom and Jerry in 1957, and had their first taste of success with the minor hit “Hey Schoolgirl”. As Simon and Garfunkel, the duo rose to fame in 1965 backed by the hit single “The Sound of Silence”. Their music was featured on the landmark film The Graduate, propelling them further into the public consciousness. They are well known for their close harmonies and sometimes unstable relationship.[photogallerylink id=12300] Their last album, Bridge over Troubled Water, was marked with several delays caused by artistic differences. Simon and Garfunkel were among the most popular recording artists of the 1960s, and are perhaps best known for their songs “The Sound of Silence”, “Mrs. Robinson”, “Bridge over Troubled Water” and “The Boxer”. They have received several Grammys and are inductees of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame (2007). In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Simon and Garfunkel #40 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
They have reunited on several occasions since their 1970 break-up, most famously for 1981’s The Concert in Central Park, which attracted more than 750,000 people.
Close friends through childhood, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel grew up in the same Forest Hills neighborhood just blocks away from one another. They met in elementary school in 1953, when they both appeared in the school play Alice in Wonderland (Simon as the White Rabbit, Garfunkel as the Cheshire Cat). They were classmates at Parsons Junior High School and Forest Hills High School in New York City, and began performing together in their junior year as Tom and Jerry, with Simon as Jerry Landis (whose last name he borrowed from a girl he had been dating) and Garfunkel as Tom Graph (so called because he was fond of tracking (“graphing”) hits on the pop charts). They began writing their own songs in 1955, and made their first professional recording, “Hey, Schoolgirl”, for Sid Prosen of Big Records in 1957. Released on 45 and 78 rpm records, the song—with B side “Dancin’ Wild”—sold 100,000 copies, hitting #49 on the Billboard charts. Both Simon and Garfunkel have acknowledged the tremendous impact of The Everly Brothers on their style, and many of their early songs (including “Hey, Schoolgirl”) bear the mark of this influence.
They later performed their hit on American Bandstand, right after Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire”.
Subsequent efforts in 1958 did not reach near their initial success, and after high school the duo went to separate colleges, with Simon enrolling at Queens College and Garfunkel at Columbia University. While enrolled in college, they both joined the same fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi.
In 1963 they found prominence as part of the Greenwich Village folk music scene. Simon, who had finished college but dropped out of Brooklyn Law School, had—like Garfunkel—developed an interest in the folk scene. Simon showed Garfunkel a few songs that he had written in the folk style: “Sparrow”, “Bleecker Street”, and “He Was My Brother”—which was later dedicated to Andrew Goodman, a friend of both Simon and Garfunkel and a classmate of Simon’s at Queens College, who was one of three civil rights workers murdered in Neshoba County, Mississippi, on June 21, 1964.
These three efforts were among five original songs by Simon included on their first album for Columbia Records, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., which initially flopped upon its release on October 19, 1964.
Shortly after finishing recording, the duo split and Simon moved to the United Kingdom, where he performed at Les Cousins and The Troubadour Club in London and toured provincial folk clubs. In these venues he was exposed to a wide range of musical influences and, while in England, recorded his solo The Paul Simon Songbook in 1965. Recorded on three different dates in June and July at Levy’s Studio, London, the album was released as an LP but then deleted about 1979 at Simon’s request, and re-released on CD with bonus tracks in 2004. During this period in London he also collaborated on a number of songs with Bruce Woodley of The Seekers, including “I Wish You Could Be Here”, “Cloudy”, and “Red Rubber Ball,” which would be a U.S. #2 hit for The Cyrkle in 1966.
While Simon was in England that summer of 1965, radio stations around Cocoa Beach and Gainesville, Florida, began to receive requests for a song from the album Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. called “The Sounds of Silence”. The song also began to receive radio airplay in Boston. Seizing the chance, the duo’s U.S. producer, Tom Wilson, inspired by The Byrds’ hugely popular electric versions of Bob Dylan songs, used the studio band of Bob Dylan (who had collaborated with him on his landmark hit Like a Rolling Stone that year) to dub electric guitars, bass and drums onto the original “Sounds of Silence” track, and released it as a single, backed with “We’ve Got a Groovy Thing Goin’”. The dubbing turned folk into folk rock, the debut of a new genre for the Top 40, much to Simon’s surprise.
In September 1965, Simon first learned that it had entered the pop charts while he was about to go on stage in a Danish folk club. The song hit number 1 on the pop charts by New Year’s Day, 1966.
Reformation and success
A red vinyl promotional copy of Simon & Garfunkel’s single “I Am a Rock”, from 1966.Simon immediately returned to the United States and the group re-formed for the second time to record more tracks in a similar style, though neither approved of what Wilson had done with The Sounds of Silence. The result was a sequence of folk rock records which have endured as well as any in the genre. On January 17, 1966, the duo released the album Sounds of Silence, which – helped by the title track’s success – hit #21, while Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. was re-released and reached #30. Among the tracks on The Paul Simon Songbook that were rerecorded (some with electric backing) for Sounds of Silence were “I Am a Rock” (which as a single reached U.S. #3 in the summer of 1966), “Leaves That Are Green”, “April Come She Will”, “A Most Peculiar Man”, and “Kathy’s Song”.
Further hit singles came, including “Scarborough Fair/Canticle”, based on a traditional English ballad with an arrangement by Martin Carthy, and “Homeward Bound” (later U.S. #5), about life on the road while Simon was touring in England in 1965. The song is reputed to have been written when Simon was stranded overnight on a platform at Widnes Central railway station after mis-reading the timetable. A plaque commemorates this event at the station.
More tracks from The Paul Simon Songbook were included with recent compositions on their October 10, 1966 album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, which refined the folk rock sound hastily released on Sounds of Silence. “Cloudy”, co-written earlier with Bruce Woodley, was included on “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme”. However, a Woodley credit was incorrectly omitted.
In early 1967, Pickwick Records, which had a reputation as a low-quality label, decided that it would capitalize on the duo’s newfound fame by releasing an album entitled The Hit Sound of Simon & Garfunkel. This album consisted of ten tracks recorded from the late 1950s and early 1960s while the duo still called themselves Tom & Jerry, including their hit “Hey, Schoolgirl”, and its B-side, “Dancin’ Wild”. Simon and Garfunkel then sued Pickwick because the company was presenting the music as recently-recorded material, not as songs written and released over five years earlier. Soon afterwards, Pickwick withdrew The Hit Sound of Simon & Garfunkel from the market.
That same year, Simon and Garfunkel contributed heavily to the soundtrack to Mike Nichols’ film The Graduate, which was released on January 21, 1968, and instantly rose to #1 as an album. According to a Variety article by Peter Bart in the May 15, 2005 issue, Nichols had become obsessed with Simon and Garfunkel’s music while shooting the film. Larry Turman, his producer, made a deal for Simon to write three new songs for the movie. By the time they were nearly finished editing the film, Simon had only written one new song. Nichols begged him for more but Simon, who was touring constantly, told him he didn’t have the time. He did play him a few notes of a new song he had been working on; “It’s not for the movie… it’s a song about times past — about Mrs. Roosevelt and Joe DiMaggio and stuff.” Nichols advised Simon, “It’s now about Mrs. Robinson, not Mrs. Roosevelt.”
As their albums became progressively more adventurous, The Graduate Original Soundtrack was immediately followed in March 1968 at the top of the charts by Bookends, which dealt with increasingly complex themes of old age and loss. It features the top-25 hit singles “A Hazy Shade of Winter”, “Fakin’ It”, “At the Zoo”, “America”, and a full version of “Mrs. Robinson”, the classic from the Graduate soundtrack, which became #1 as a single.
At the March 1969 Grammy Awards, “Mrs. Robinson” was named Record of the Year, while Simon was also honored with the Grammy for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special.
By 1969, the duo’s success began to take its toll. Garfunkel had begun to pursue a career in acting and was featured in the role of Nately in Nichols’s film adaptation of the novel Catch-22. Garfunkel’s filming leave conflicted with and subsequently delayed the recording of the duo’s next album, and to add insult to injury, the part in the film which had initially been promised to Simon was completely cut from the script.
The duo’s deteriorating personal relationship continued into their late 1969 tour, which featured performances at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio on November 11 and Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois on November 8, recordings of which are supposedly widely bootlegged. Video footage of the tour was shown on their controversial November 30 television special Songs of America, which TV sponsors refused to endorse because of its distinct anti-Vietnam War message.
The recording of what would be their final album, Bridge over Troubled Water, was not without tension. The LP was originally supposed to feature twelve tracks, but the duo could not agree on the twelfth track: Simon refused to record a Bach chorale track favored by Garfunkel, while Garfunkel refused to record a song Simon had written called “Cuba Si, Nixon No”. No middle ground was reached, so the album was released with only eleven songs.
Bridge over Troubled Water was at last released on January 26, 1970. Its title track, featuring Garfunkel’s soaring vocals, was a massive hit and one of the best-selling records of the decade, staying #1 on the charts for six weeks and remaining on the charts for far longer. The album includes three other top-twenty hits: “El Cóndor Pasa” (US #18), “Cecilia” (US #4), and “The Boxer”—which, finished in 1968, hit #7 on the charts the following year—as well as a live recording of the Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye, Love” from a 1969 tour concert in Ames, Iowa.
At the subsequent March 1971 Grammy Awards, the album and single were named Album and Record of The Year, respectively, and also won the awards for Best Engineered Record, Best Contemporary Song, Song of the Year, and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists. Their 1972 Greatest Hits album has sold over 14 million copies in the U.S. becoming the number one selling album by a duo.
The duo finally split in 1970 to much chagrin but little surprise, and the two men went their separate ways. Simon continued writing and went on to a very successful solo music career, recording several classic albums, including There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (1973), Still Crazy After All These Years (1975), and his most highly celebrated solo album, Graceland (1986), collaborating with the Zulu choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo among others. Garfunkel split his time between acting and recording solo and collaboration albums, to mixed reviews. His most critically acclaimed album was the 1978 effort Watermark, almost all of the songs for which were penned by acclaimed songwriter Jimmy Webb.
Simon and Garfunkel’s first reunion since their second breakup was at a June 1972 benefit concert at Madison Square Garden for presidential candidate George McGovern. On October 18, 1975 the duo made an appearance on the second ever episode of NBC’s Saturday Night Live. They performed “The Boxer”, “Scarborough Fair” and “My Little Town”. The latter song was the first and only new Simon and Garfunkel recording for over a decade, appearing on both Simon’s and Garfunkel’s solo albums released in 1975, and reaching #9 on the U.S. Billboard Pop chart.
Simon and Garfunkel reunited for a free concert in New York City’s Central Park on September 19, 1981. The concert was attended by over 500,000 people, and the recording was released as a live album, with their cover of “Wake Up Little Susie” released as a single. The success of this concert prompted the duo to go on a world tour in 1982-83.
Simon and Garfunkel even completed their first new studio album in more than a decade, entitled Think Too Much, featuring some songs previewed on their recent jaunt. However, creative differences (coupled with the record company’s negative reaction to the decidedly un-Simon-and-Garfunkel-like album) led Simon to remove Garfunkel’s vocals and rework the songs himself. The solo album Hearts and Bones was the result, and a long period of estrangement for the duo followed.
Their next public appearance was in 1990, when the two performed at a ceremony for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Simon and Garfunkel appeared together in 1993 for 21 sold out concerts in New York, with half of the show being Paul Simon solo with a band and the other half Simon and Garfunkel. Later the same year they did some charity concerts, including the Bridge School Benefit concerts.
In July 2002, Columbia Legacy issued a previously unreleased live recording of a Simon and Garfunkel concert, Live from New York City, 1967. It features an almost-complete recording of a performance given by the duo at Philharmonic Hall, at the Lincoln Center in New York City on January 22, 1967. The album includes the song “A Church Is Burning”, which does not appear on any of the group’s five studio albums, though it does appear on Paul Simon’s solo album, The Paul Simon Songbook.
On February 23, 2003, Simon and Garfunkel reunited to perform in public for the first time in a decade, singing “The Sounds of Silence” as the opening act of the Grammy Awards. Before the show, the duo was presented with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, honoring their musical contributions over the past four and a half decades. They were introduced by Dustin Hoffman, who made his debut in the film The Graduate, which extensively featured their music.
The good feelings generated by their appearance on the Grammys led to another thaw in their relationship. Soon, Simon and Garfunkel launched a two-month long reunion tour of the United States (and Toronto, Canada), which ran from October 16 to December 21, 2003. Entitled Old Friends, their first tour in over twenty years included forty shows in twenty-eight cities and featured special guests The Everly Brothers. The tour featured in its opening video montage a short series of clips and photos taken during the day leading up to the concert around the venue. They performed “Hey, Schoolgirl”, which they said was the first song they had written and recorded together. At the tour concert at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, NJ, they performed “Leaves That Are Green” in place of “Song for the Asking”, which had been on their set list for the other concerts on this tour, following an announcement that they had not played it in concert since 1967.
The success of the first Old Friends tour led to an encore in June and July 2004 with over 25 shows, this time also in Europe. In July 2004, they completed the tour with a flourish, with a finale at the Colosseum in Rome before an audience which, according to the Mayor of Rome, exceeded 600,000—even larger than the audience at the famous 1981 Central Park concert.
A live CD and DVD from their Old Friends tour was released in late 2004. It featured a “new” studio duo song, “Citizen of the Planet”, one of the songs from the rejected 1983 reunion album that did not originally feature Garfunkel’s vocal participation.
In 2007, PBS hosted the first Gershwin Awards, at which Paul Simon was honored. Simon introduced Garfunkel (for a cameo appearance) as “my partner in arguments” and the two sang “Bridge over Troubled Water” together.
According to the Herald Sun Australia, the duo has tentatively scheduled a tour in Australia, their first tour since 2004, and their first Australian tour since 1983.
Columbia/Legacy announced the September 18, 2007, release of Live 1969, which was said to feature recently discovered masters recorded on their 1969 tour. The album is now available through Starbucks. Most of the arrangements remain virtually unchanged. That tour was their last for over a decade, immediately preceding the release of the 1970 album Bridge over Troubled Water. The tour was recorded preparing for a subsequent live album, but the release of the live album did not happen, until now, as reported in Billboard.
Pop culture references
The asteroid 91287 Simon-Garfunkel was named in their honor.
Israeli group The Parvarim recorded an album of Hebrew cover versions of Simon and Garfunkel songs in 1971. The translations were mostly accurate, but for “Scarborough Fair”, the Hebrew words for “parsley, sage, etc.” didn’t fit into the music, so the spices were changed to “cinnamon, jasmine and myrrh”.
The Korean band SG Wannabe was highly influenced by Simon and Garfunkel’s work; SG stands for “Simon and Garfunkel”.
In 1993, Austrian electronic music duo Kruder & Dorfmeister modelled the cover of their first album, G-Stoned, after the cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends album, using similar black and white photo, pose, and typography.
The episode “Bendin’ in the Wind” of Futurama in a double send-up of Simon and Garfunkel and Battlestar Galactica, features the singing duo “Cylon and Garfunkel” performing a rendition of “Scarborough Fair” in which the robot Cylon’s singing is entirely monotone.
In the episode of The Simpsons, Lady Bouvier’s Lover, the end of the episode is one of the series’ many homages to The Graduate, and features a parody of “The Sounds of Silence” over the closing credits. (“hello grandpa my old friend/your busy day is at an end/your words are always sad and boring/ they tell a tale that’s worth ignoring”).
The Family Guy episode “To Love and Die in Dixie” suggests that Peter Griffin was a third member of Simon and Garfunkel. When the duo rejects his song ideas for ‘Here’s to you Mrs Fleckinstein’ and ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Lawry’s Seasoning Salt’, Peter says “that’s it, I’m goin to ‘Nam.”
The Rush song “The Spirit of Radio” references “The Sounds of Silence”, turning “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls… and whispered in the sounds of silence” into the ironic “The words of the profits are written on the studio walls, concert halls… and echoes with the sounds of salesmen”.
In the 2000 film Almost Famous, starring Kate Hudson, the song “America” is featured, as well as a discussion between Zooey Deschanel’s character and her mother (Frances McDormand) about the Bookends album.
In the 2004 film Intolerable Cruelty, characters can be heard singing various Simon and Garfunkel songs in the background during a number of scenes.
In the 2004 film Raising Helen, also starring Kate Hudson, the song “At the Zoo” is featured, while the characters are in fact at the zoo. In addition to their own album, the song is also available on the soundtrack for the movie on Hollywood Records.
In the 2004 film Garden State, directed by and starring Zach Braff, the song “The Only Living Boy in New York” is featured. In addition to their own album, the song is also available on the soundtrack for the movie on Epic Records.
In an episode of Saturday Night Live’s “Celebrity Jeopardy” parody, there was a category entitled “Simon and Garfunkel.” The clue read, “Of Simon and Garfunkel, the one who is not Garfunkel.” Once the Sean Connery character rang in, he asked for the question to be repeated. Once it was read again, he said in response, “I Garfunkeled your mother!” This was one of the running gags of the parody.
In the episode “Electro” of the British sitcom The Mighty Boosh there is a flashback to Vince’s Glam Rock Folk band in which they are wearing make-up based on the rock band Kiss and wearing cardigans while performing Scarborough Fair.
A Prairie Home Companion did a cover of the song during a comedy act with the “sound of sickness” instead of sounds of silence.
In the 2009 movie Watchmen, “The Sound of Silence” was featured both in the film as well as on the soundtrack.
Main article: Simon & Garfunkel discography
1964: Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.
1966: Sounds of Silence
1966: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
1970: Bridge over Troubled Water
Singles with Billboard Hot 100 positions
“The Sounds of Silence (song)” (#1) / “We’ve Got a Groovey Thing Goin’” — Columbia 43396 — 11/65
An extremely rare red vinyl promotional copy of “The Sounds of Silence” features the acoustic version on the A-side and the “electric” hit version on the B-side
“Homeward Bound” (#5) / “Leaves That Are Green” — Columbia 43511 — 2/66
“I Am a Rock” (#3)/ “Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall” — Columbia 43617 — 5/66
The Dangling Conversation (#25)/The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine — Columbia 43728 — 7/66
The above three singles were also issued on red vinyl promotional copies with the A-side on both sides
“A Hazy Shade of Winter” (#13) / “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” — Columbia 43873 — 11/66
“At the Zoo” (#16) / “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” — Columbia 44046 — 3/67
“Fakin’ It” (#23) / “You Don’t Know Where Your Interest Lies” — Columbia 44232 — 7/67
All pressings intentionally show the A-side playing time as 2:74 to boost radio airplay for stations that did not play songs over 3 minutes long. The B-side is a non-LP track
“Scarborough Fair/Canticle” (#11) / “April Come She Will” — Columbia 44465 — 3/68
This was a re-release of two songs from earlier LPs due to their inclusion on The Graduate Original Soundtrack.
Mrs. Robinson (#1) / “Old Friends” / “Bookends” — Columbia 44511 — 4/68
Original pressings show both sides (B-side erroneously) as from the film The Graduate. Later pressings correctly show both sides as from the “Bookends” album.
“The Boxer” (#7) / “Baby Driver” (#101) — Columbia 44785 — 4/69
“Bridge over Troubled Water” (#1) / “Keep the Customer Satisfied” — Columbia 45079 — 2/70
“Cecilia” (#4) / “The Only Living Boy in New York” — Columbia 45133 — 4/70
“El Cóndor Pasa” (#10) / “Why Don’t You Write Me”— Columbia 45237 — 9/70
“For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” (live version) (#53) / “America” (#97) — Columbia 45663 — 9/72
“My Little Town” (#9) / “Rag Doll (Art Garfunkel)” / “You’re Kind” (Paul Simon) — Columbia 10230 — 10/75
“Wake Up Little Susie” (#27) / “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” — Warner 50053 — 4/82
Both tracks taken from the Central Park concert on September 19, 1981
Grammy Awards 1968 – Record of the Year (for “Mrs. Robinson”)
Grammy Awards 1968 – Best Contemporary Pop Performance – Vocal Duo or Group (for “Mrs. Robinson”)
Grammy Awards 1970 – Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, best Contemporary Song, Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s), Best Engineered Recording, best Contemporary Vocal Group (for “Bridge over Troubled Water”)
BRIT Awards 1977 – Best International Album (of the past 25 years) (for Bridge over Troubled Water”)
Grammy Awards 2003 – Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award