They are well known for their close vocal harmonies and sometimes unstable relationship. Their last album, Bridge over Troubled Water, was delayed several times due to artistic disagreements. They were among the most popular recording artists of the 1960s; among their biggest hits, in addition to "The Sounds of Silence", were "I Am a Rock", "Homeward Bound", "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 breakup, most famously for 1981's The Concert in Central Park, which attracted about 500,000 people.
Close friends through childhood, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel grew up in the same Forest Hills neighborhood in Queens, New York, 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, 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 rpm and 78 rpm vinyl records, with the flip-side song "Dancin' Wild", the recording sold 100,000 copies, hitting #49 on the Billboard Magazine 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", "Bleeker 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. While in England, he 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. #1 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 #1 on the pop charts by New Year's Day, 1966.
Reformation and success:
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 and Thyme. However, a Woodley credit was incorrectly omitted. The following year, Woodley's band The Seekers recorded it for their studio album Seen in Green, on which Simon received a credit.
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. On June 16, 1967, the duo performed at the Monterey Pop Festival.
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. 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, Still Crazy After All These Years, and his most highly celebrated solo album, Graceland, 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 Hot 100 chart.
Simon, along with James Taylor, provided harmony vocals on Garfunkel's cover of Sam Cooke's "(What a) Wonderful World", from the 1977 album Watermark; the recording reached #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and #17 on the Hot 100. Simon also contributed backing vocals to "In Cars", a song from Garfunkel's 1981 solo album Scissors Cut.
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 a recording of it was subsequently released as a live album, with their cover of "Wake Up Little Susie" released as a single. A video recording was likewise televised by HBO and issued on home video. The success of the Central Park concert prompted the duo to go on a world tour in 1982–1983.
Simon and Garfunkel even completed their first new studio album in more than a decade, provisionally titled Think Too Much and featuring some songs previewed on their recent concert 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 vocal tracks and rework the songs himself. The 1983 Simon solo album Hearts and Bones was the result, and a long period of estrangement for the duo followed.
Their next joint 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 and culminating in Tampa on 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. They also played "Leaves That Are Green" at concerts in Boston after making a similar announcement.
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.
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.
On February 13, 2009, Simon and his band re-opened New York's legendary Beacon Theatre, which had been closed for seven months for a renovation. As an encore, Simon brought out "my old friend" Art Garfunkel. They sang 3 songs: "Sounds of Silence", "The Boxer", and "Old Friends."
On April 2, the duo announced a tour of Australia and New Zealand for June 2009.
Pop culture references:
In 1999, the asteroid 91287 Simon-Garfunkel was named in their honor.
In 1971, Israeli group The Parvarim recorded an album of Hebrew cover versions of Simon and Garfunkel songs. The translations were mostly accurate, but for "Scarborough Fair", the Hebrew words for "parsley", "sage", etc. did not fit into the music, so the spices were changed to "cinnamon, jasmine and myrrh".
In 1993, Austrian electronic music duo Kruder & Dorfmeister modeled 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.
In an episode of sit-com Friends, the character Phoebe Buffay was helping character Joey Tribbiani make a decision by asking him a series of question, and he has to answer as fast as possible. One of the questions was "Who would you rather be, Simon or Garfunkel?" to which Joey replies "Garfunkel".
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, and Garfunkel – who explains during the performance that he is the descendant of Art – states that he will give Bender the check "over my dead career!".
The end of the "Lady Bouvier's Lover" episode of The Simpsons contains 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, Zooey Deschanel's character (Anita Miller) and her mother (Elaine Miller), played by Frances McDormand, argue about the Bookends album. Later, Anita gives the song "America" as her reason for leaving home to become a stewardess.
In an episode of Saturday Night Live's "Celebrity Jeopardy" parody, there was a category entitled "Members of 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 an episode of The Simpsons, Mr. Burns spins around a lamp post singing, "Hello lamp post. What ya knowin'? I've come to watch your power flowin'."
In the 2005 film Rumor Has It, Jennifer Aniston's character realizes that her family are the true Robinsons from The Graduate. Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson", from The Graduate's soundtrack, plays as she first realizes this.
In the original cover photo for the album Wednesday Morning 3 A.M., which was shot in the New York City Subway, it was noticed that "fuck" was barely visible scrawled on the wall behind them. Columbia Records objected to the photo, which was replaced with another. This event was the inspiration behind the track "A Poem on the Underground Wall" from Parsley, Sage Rosemary & Thyme. Garfunkel related the story on the album Live From New York.
In the 2009 film Watchmen, the song "The Sound of Silence" is played at The Comedian's burial.
Elvis Presley recorded a cover of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in Nashville's Studio B in 1970, and regularly performed the song in his live concerts. It was also prominently showcased in his two concert movies, Elvis: That's The Way It Is (1970) and Elvis On Tour (1972).
Japanese-American singer-songwriter Hikaru Utada mentions Simon & Garfunkel in the lyrics of her song "This One (Crying Like A Child)". She sings, "We should get back on the road, like Simon & Garfunkel..."
In a recent SNL skit, Will Forte and Jason Sudeikis pose as Bon Jovi opposite band, Jon Bovi, but when accused of sounding exactly like Bon Jovi, they say, "Well, if you didn't like that, you're going to love our new opposite Folk Rock band, Gimon & Sarfunkel.", refrencing an opposite to Simon & Garfunkel.
In the movie Old School the song "Sound of Silence" starts to play as Will Ferell's charater Frank 'the Tank' falls into the pool.