Soft Rock and Folk Duo Simon and Garfunkel
I certainly remember these guys as I was growing up and getting a taste for listening to music on the radio. At around this time in the early 1970’s the duo had actually split but their most famous album Bridge Over Troubled Waters was still being regularly played on the radio. Unfortunately these guys seemed to be another example of musicians almost on opposing sides forcing them apart from day one. But despite this they were able to produce this fantastic album that regularly receives airplay today some 45 years later.
Paul Simon was born October 13, 1941 in Newark, New Jersey. He met Simon Garfunkel when they were both 11 and they became close Friends and thus began their musical association together both in playing music and singing harmonies, often performing at school and college dances. At that time their idols were the Everly Brothers whose Folky Rockabilly sound and vocal harmonies inspired Paul and Art. So too did the music coming out from the Folk scene at the time plus Rock and Roll of course, other influences were Blues and Jazz, so they began to to pull their own style incorporating two part harmonies which they would later be remembered for. While still at school Paul’s father wrote a song for his son and Art to sing and perform to, it is called “The Girl for Me,” this was the first copyrighted song for Simon and Garfunkel which is now in the Library of Congress. When they were still in their mid teens they recorded their first song “Hey, Schoolgirl” which was done under the name Tom and Jerry which was the name initially given to them by their record label Big Company, this song actually reached No 49 in the Pop charts.
Arthur Ira (Art) Garfunkel was born on November 5, 1941 in Forest Hills,Queens, New York. Art enjoyed singing from as early as five years old, practicing his singing in the echo filled school halls and stairways, he actually learned the entire words to the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Unchained Melody” he used to record himself singing and then he played it back and in so doing he improved his vocal range and weeded out his imperfections. In 1954 at his Bar Mitzvah (His Jewish Coming of age ceremony) he performed over 4 hours of songs from his repertoire in front of his family.In his early teens he suffered a lung infection which cut down his ability to run, so instead of fast paced games his threw hoops in the schoolyard and played small games of 3 on 3.
Both Simon and Garfunkel were interested in various type of music of that era, plus folk music was always an interest of Art Garfunkel.
Paul Simon would often be found at a place called Greenwich Village soaking up ideas for his music. At this time Art Garfunkel returned
to Columbia University in order to keep his student draft deferment as the Vietnam War began. As seemed normal within their circles
they each started to smoke marijuana, they were also performing at the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house which was where Art Garfunkel had previously attended. By late 1963, they began to bill themselves as “Kane & Garr”, signing up for Gerde’s Folk City, a Greenwich club that hosted Monday night performances. The duo performed three new songs — “Sparrow”, “He Was My Brother”, and “The Sound of Silence”. The producer at Columbia Records “Tom Wilson” heard of the duo and convinced Columbia to sign the duo for a record deal.
As a result of this collaboration, they produced their first album
entitled “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M” October 1964, The album contained five original compositions of Paul Simon, with the remaining being an assortment of traditional folk songs. Prior to its release Paul wargued that they should no longer use other names and that they should only use Simon and Garfunkel from then on. Columbia Records set up a promotional showcase at Folk City on March 31, 1964, this was to be the duo’s first public concert
as Simon & Garfunkel. Unfortunately the promotions didn’t really go in their favour and anticipating failure, Paul Simon moved to Essex near London England and while their attended a variety of small folk clubs. This is where he met and fell in love with Kathy Chitty who would become the object of his affection and the subject of multiple future songs.
Over the next few year Simon and Garfunkel would move between America and England, educational studies and music where they found limited success on both counts. Paul Simon wrote and played his own work resulting in ”
“(1965) which contained several future Simon and garfunkel tracks, namely “Iam a rock” and April She Will Come”
Unknown to Paul Simon at the time,his producer Wilson, decided to over dub “The Sound of Silence” with the backing musicians that had
worked on one of Bob Dylans albums, once released it went from strength to strength and while Paul Simon was a little aggrieved at the time he also
welcomed the resulting success. By January of 1966 the record had topped the Hot 100, it sold over one million copies. Simon and Garfunkel once again reunited that winter in New York, meaning that for a while Paul, Simon had left England and his love Kathy Chitty.
CBS obviously wanted to ride the wave of success created by the “The Sound of Silence” and required another album from the duo, they duly obliged by Mid January 1966 with a new album called “Sound of Silence” It contained a number of re-cut tracks from Paul Simons Songbook plus 4 new tracks. “Homeward Bound” became one of Americas Top Ten Songs. quickly followed by “I am a Rock”
However even though the songs were doing well they did receive a certain amount of negativity from some quarters stating that their sound was manufactured imitation of folk music. Meanwhile Simon and Garfunkel continued to tour the circuit nationwide.
As they both felt that their previous record was a ruched effort they wanted to take their time with the next project which saw Paul Simon taking over much of the production work as well as the writing of the material. After nine months they produced another album entitled “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” was issued in October 1966. Following the release of several singles and playing to full college shows the duo felt that they had finally made it.
Paul Simon was the writer, he had the task of producing songs for them to sing and he was good at it but eventually he dried up a little
and the record companies normally wanted artists to produce three albums each year, Simon and Garfunkel only managed two, so more pressure was applied, this resulted in Paul Simon accepting a contract to write three songs for a film, but these were received coolly.
Over the next eighteen months they produced another record “Bookends” and they really took their time getting every part of the production correct before accepting the final version. Simon and Garfunkel really began to enjoy success over the next few years including the years up to around 1968 and incorporating several historical moments like the shooting of Martin Luther King and the summer of love etc.
They became known as the biggest Rock Duo of the time and when they released “Bridge over Troubled Water” their final studio album, which was released in January 1970, it topped the charts in over 11 countries, including the US Billboard 200 and the UK Albums Chart. It was the best-selling album in 1970 to 1972 which was at that time the best-selling album of all time.
Around this time the two decided that they had had enough of the music industry and they decided to split and pursue different directions and careers including filming, Paul Simon continued with a solo career writing songs and performing some of them or writing songs for other people. It was odd because their music continued to sell well, but the two would hardly speak for several years, possibly only two or three times in the year. But something that was not thought to be possible was that Simon and Garfunkel would often get back together for a project before going their separate ways again. This would happen several times throughout the seventies and while they produced great music there issues would always drive them apart and even they could not quite put there finger on the reason why.
In 1990, the duo were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The duo would often reunite before going their own way once again, this was a pattern often to be repeated and when they picked up various awards throughout the years, they would only speak briefly before leaving.
The Old Friends tour began in October 2003 and played to sold-out audiences across the United States for 30 dates until mid-December. The tour was estimated to have earned an estimated $123 million. Then following a twelve-city run in Europe during 2004, they ended their nine-month tour with a free concert at the Colosseum in Rome which attracted 600,000 fans, even more than their The Concert in Central Park.
Over the next few years more appearances followed but Art
Garfunkel began having trouble with his voice which was eventually discovered to be vocal cord paresis. This would plague him for the next few years and lead to intermittent appearances for him. Simon and Garfunkel played their last show together in 2010 and while they would never rule out another reunited appearance Paul Simon has been too busy but who knows?
All we do know is that Simon and Garfunkel have fans throughout the world and they would love to see them back together again.
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