1956, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were juniors at Forest
Hills High School in
New York, New York, who began playing together as a group
Tom and Jerry, with Simon as Jerry Landis and Garfunkel as
Tom Graph, so called because he always liked to track "graph"
hits on the pop charts. As seniors in
1957, they had started writing their own songs in the
rock and roll style; they managed to record one of their
first, Hey, Schoolgirl, for Sid Prosen of Big Records.
Released on 45 and 78 rpm records, the single, backed with "Dancin'
Wild" sold 100,000 copies, hitting #49 on the Billboard charts.
They later performed their hit on
American Bandstand, right after
Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great
Balls of Fire". (Lewis had refused to lip-synch and insisted
on performing live, which was unprecedented on Bandstand.)
Subsequent efforts in
1958 did not reach near their initial success, and after
high school, the duo split, with Simon enrolling at
Queens College, New York, and Garfunkel matriculating into
They later found prominence as part of the same New York City
folk music scene as
Bob Dylan, with close harmony singing inspired by the Everly
Brothers, married to Simon's acoustic
guitar playing, in
1963. Simon, who had finished college but dropped out of
Brooklyn Law School, had taken up interest in the folk scene,
like Garfunkel, and showed him a few songs in the folk style he
had written--"Sparrow", "Bleecker Street", and "He Was My
Brother", which was later dedicated to
Andrew Goodman, one of three civil rights workers murdered
Neshoba County, Mississippi, on
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
19 October 1964.
Shortly after finishing recording the duo effectively split
again and Simon moved to
England, where he recorded his solo
The Paul Simon Song Book in
1965. Recorded in about an hour at Levy's Studio,
London, and featuring only Simon and his guitar, it is a
refreshing souvenir of the early folk work of Paul Simon.
However, the album was supposedly deleted about
1979 at Simon's request, so today it can only be found as an
LP recording at record stores and fairs.
While Simon was in England that summer of 1965, radio
Cocoa Beach and
Florida, began to receive requests for a song off of
Wednesday Morning, 3 A. M. called "The Sound of Silence".
The song also began to receive radio airplay in
Boston, and seizing the chance, the duo's U.S. producer Tom
Wilson, who had heard
The Byrds' early folk records, dubbed in an electric guitar
and drums to "The Sound of Silence" track, and released it as a
single, backed with "We've Got a Groovey Thing Goin'". The
dubbing turned folk into
folk-rock, the debut of a new genre for the
Top 40, much to Simon's surprise.
September 1965 Simon learned it first entered the pop charts
while about to go on stage in a
Danish folk club, and it hit number 1 on the pop charts by
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, perhaps
justifiably so, neither approved of what Wilson had done with
"The Sound of Silence."
The result was a sequence of folk-rock records, which have
endured as well as any in the genre. Simon's lyrics were often
insightful and picturesque, but leavened by a consistent dry
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 Song Book
rerecorded with electric backing for "Sounds of Silence" were "I
Am A Rock" (which as a single reached US #3 in the summer of
1966), "Leaves That Are Green", "April Come She Will", and
Further hit singles came, including "Scarborough
Fair/Canticle", based on a traditional English ballad with an
original counter-melody, and "Homeward Bound" (later US #5),
about life on the road while Simon was touring in England in
More tracks from The Paul Simon Song Book were
included with recent compositions on their
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, which refined the
folk-rock sound hastily released on Sounds of Silence.
1967, Simon and Garfunkel contributed heavily to the
Mike Nichols' film
The Graduate, which was released on
1968 and instantly rose to #1 as an album.
As their albums became progressively more adventurous,
The Graduate Original Soundtrack was immediately followed
in April 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", and "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 for a Motion Picture.
1969 the duo's success began to take its toll. Garfunkel had
begun to pursue a career in acting, in Nichols' follow-up to
The Graduate, starring as Nately in the movie version of
Catch-22. This increasingly frustrated Simon when
Garfunkel's leave interfered with the recording of the duo's
next album, and it didn't help that Simon's part in the film had
been cut before filming actually began.
The duo's deteriorating personal relationship continued into
their late 1969 tour, which featured performances at
Miami University in
Oxford, Ohio on
11 November and
Carbondale, Illinois on
8 November, recordings of which are supposedly widely
bootlegged. Video footage of the tour was shown on their
30 November television special Songs Of America,
which TV sponsors refused to endorse because of its distinct
Their long-delayed final album,
Bridge Over Troubled Water, was at last released on
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 full weeks and on the
charts for far more thereafter. The album includes three other
top twenty hits, including "El Condor 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
Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love" from
Ames, Iowa, on their 1969 tour.
At the subsequent
Grammy awards, the album and single were each named Album
and Record of The Year, winning Grammys as well for Best
Engineered Record, Song of The Year, Best Contemporary Song, and
Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists.
After the group split later that year, Simon went on to a
very successful solo music career and Garfunkel split his time
between acting and occasional musical releases, neither to much
Greatest Hits album peaked at US #5.
The duo has reunited off and on since then, most notably for
concert in New York's
Central Park in
1981, which attracted a crowd in excess of 500,000 people
and was released on LP, CD, VHS, and DVD.
2002, Columbia Legacy released a previously unreleased live
recording of a Simon and Garfunkel concert,
Live In New York City, 1967. It features an
almost-complete recording of a performance given by the duo at
Philharmonic Hall, the
Lincoln Center in
New York City on
2003, Simon and Garfunkel reunited to perform in public for
the first time since
1993, singing "The Sound Of Silence" as the opening act of
the Grammy awards. Before the show, the duo was presented with
the Grammy's Lifetime Achievement Award, honoring their musical
contributions over the past four and a half decades.
- Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M
Sounds of Silence
Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme
The Graduate Original Soundtrack
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits
The Concert in Central Park
Live In New York City, 1967
- Anthologies and compilations too numerous to mention