Saturday, November 18, 2017

A BRIEF HISTORY OF SIMON & GARFUNKEL

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Now that we're finished with the silly distraction of the potential job, we can get back to what's really important: Battle of the Bands.

As you may already know, the song for my current battle is The Only Living Boy In New York. The contenders are Simon & Garfunkel and PigPen Theatre Co. If you haven't voted yet, please visit THIS POST to do so.

The history of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel can be summed up as making beautiful music together, splitting up, taking verbal jabs at one another, reuniting, splitting, not speaking, and reuniting.

The duo discovered they could harmonize in 1953 when they were in the sixth grade in Queens. They continued to sing together as high school students. In 1957, they recorded a composition of their own called Hey, Schoolgirl as Tom & Jerry. It was a modest success, and they appeared on American Bandstand.



Their next attempts at recording together failed. College beckoned. Simon majored in English and went to Brooklyn Law School. Garfunkel studied art history at Columbia University and then earned a master's degree in mathematics. Both made attempts at solo singing careers, with Simon spending some time in England. When he returned to the U.S., the two recorded some songs together again, but weren't successful. One of these was The Sound of Silence.

Then a remix of The Sound of Silence hit in 1965––and it hit big. No more stage names. They were Simon & Garfunkel, folk rock duo. In 1966, they had three successful albums that produced four big singles. They became one of the most popular groups in the world during the remainder of the decade, but both wanted to make some changes. Paul Simon wanted to become a solo recording artist, while Art Garfunkel embarked on an acting career in movies. Both have said they only wanted to take a break from each other for a couple of years. The break became more or less permanent (in spite of some television appearances and their hugely successful free concert in Central Park in 1982) when an album that they were to record together instead turned into a Paul Simon solo project.

Creative differences? Sick of each other? Hurt feelings? All probably apply to the end of their recording career.

In 1990 when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Garfunkel thanked Simon for "enriching his life." Simon's response was "Well, Arthur and I agree about almost nothing, but it´s true: I have enriched his life quite a bit now that I think about it." 

Garfunkel has referred to Simon's short stature over the years in disparaging terms and said that he spoke to Simon in high school because he felt sorry for him.

From 1993 to 2003, Simon and Garfunkel rarely spoke. In 2001, Simon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. In his acceptance speech, he stated, "I regret the ending of our friendship. I hope that some day before we die we will make peace with each other [long pause]. No rush."

Yet in 2003 they began to perform together again and have toured regularly, although Simon insists he'll never record with Garfunkel again. Garfunkel has also experienced problems with his vocal chords that have sometimes limited his ability to sing. They are 76 years old.




They have 10 Grammy Awards. Their last studio album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, was released in January, 1970, and became the best-selling album of all time until Michael Jackson released Thriller in 1982.

In my next post, we'll talk about the lyrics for The Only Living Boy In New York.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


From The Concert In Central Park, with 500,000 in attendance:


33 comments:

  1. Feelin' groovy! I was a huge fan of theirs in the late 60s.

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  2. S&G--you get me right in the heart. They wrote poems that had meaning and they harmonized with every word enunciated. Their differences were a metaphor for the lives of many of us. We were the same age. I followed them together and separate. Paul Simon's acoustic guitar would bring me from a couple hundred miles to hear.

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    1. I felt that Art alone didn't get the attention he deserved.

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  3. Simon & Garfunkel always remind me of my early college years, which is when I really started getting into them, thanks to a friend from Brooklyn who was obsessed with them. Their harmonies have to be the best ever, I would think.

    It's really sad to read about the demise of their friendship. Hopefully at this stage in their life, they can put the differences behind and come to understand how much alike they are and what brought them together in the first place, without all the petty bullshit and the painful memories of insults over the decades interfering.

    It would be such a gift to have them record together again and give the world one more S&G album...
    Thanks for this concise history of these two artists.

    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. At least they perform together sometimes.

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  4. They are so talented, almost genius when it comes to music.
    It has always bothered me that folks whose music can blend and compliment each other perfectly, can't get along.

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  5. Both of them certainly enriched my life. And I mourn the dissolution of their friendship.

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    1. It would have been wise if they hadn't insulted each other in interviews.

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  6. The story I got from Paul Simon's father's best friend was that he offered to pay for Paul's college. Paul didn't want to go. His dad's friend told him, "Sure, you play the guitar good but what are you going to do for a living?"

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    1. And he did go to college and even to law school for a while, though I don't think he finished. He made some effort to live up to family expectations.

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  7. I've always hated that these two could never get along for very long. They're both at fault, although Paul in particular has said some very condescending things about Art.

    I actually met a distant relative of Art Garfunkel's once. I was a sometime cashier at a department store, and I needed to see I.D. for a credit card sale. The man's last name was Garfunkel, and that's definitely not a common name, so I just said "Any relation?" The man smiled and told me they were distant cousins, or something like that. (Another time, I had to I.D. a customer whose name turned out to be John Lennon. No relation.)

    By the way, don't you hate it when people spell Art's last name "Garfunkle?" I do.

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    1. I suppose it's a common mistake. The world is full of common mistakes that make me tired.

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  8. The Sound of Silence is one of my favorite songs.
    Tell me, Janie, do you believe they were more than friends? There must've been some "benefits" to that friendship - for them to be so passionate, and repeatedly hot versus cold, about their relationship. ??
    Love.

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    1. It never occurred to me that they were more than friends except in the sense that they were extremely close friends who have a relationship that most of us can't understand. Friends who perform together have a unique set of problems. I think the passion came from their artistry.

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  9. They certainly made some beautiful music together, for which I am grateful. It's a shame their personalities conflicted to the extent they did.

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    1. Yes, it is. It happens so often with intense performers.

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  10. They were one of my favorite groups when I was growing up and I still love their music.

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  11. Wow! You've written a lot in the past few days which means, I hope, that you are feeling much better. I'm a big fan of S&G and wore out their album "Bridge Over Troubled Water." But here I am voting for PigPen Theatre Co. whose performance of "The Only Living Boy In New York" which I loved! Got my fingers crossed for your potential job! Sending you an encouraging hug!

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    1. I'm fine, thanks, and I appreciate the hug.

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  12. Love and Not Love at its finest. I like them both together and apart. Wish I knew them personally.

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    1. That's interesting: I don't think I would want to know them personally.

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  13. LOVED their music together. Complicated relationship. Two strong personalities with very different skill sets and ideas as to where they wanted to go with them. I guess I always sided with Paul. Still liked his solo music, but didn't care for Art's. They were both unkind, that's for sure. Those songs from the late 60s--OMG! They take me right back. :)

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  14. Funny thing is that because of your post I watched a movie made of a book with that title (and somewhat inspired by some of the lyrics) and, unrelated to this duo, I actually liked it. In it, THE ONLY BOY LIVING IN NEW YORK is called Thomas, and the city stars as much as the character.
    I know many of their songs but for me the greatest is always THE SOUND OF SILENCE.

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    1. I've heard of that movie but haven't seen it. I love The Sound of Silence.

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  15. They created some amazing music together despite their differences.

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  16. Wow. They have now hated, seemingly with the fire of a couple whose divorce was characterized as "spiteful," longer than they were ever friends or collaborators. I can't imagine that. Imagine being forever intrinsically linked, owing your career, reputation, fame and future success all to a collaboration that you deeply regret. That has to be some rough soul searching nights as you try to go to bed.

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  17. Thanks for that great biography of S&G! Too bad their contentious relationship caused so many problems. We actually had tickets to see them in 2010, but the concert got cancelled and yes, it was due to Garfunkel's vocal issues. So disappointing! On the other hand, I was able to get tickets for The Who with the refund, so it worked out okay. ☺

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