- 10 Best 70s Rock Trios – The Golden Era of Rock - December 2, 2023
- The 10 Best 60s Rock Trios – The Holy Trinities Of Rock - November 29, 2023
- TOOL Band History Guide – The Complex Philosopher of Metal - November 7, 2023
Whenever a musical duo is mentioned, the first names that come to my mind are Simon & Garfunkel. Everyone has heard their hits, but there’s much more to them than “The Sound of Silence” or “Mrs. Robinson.” Having rediscovered their music in my adult years, I assure you that this Simon & Garfunkel band history will introduce you to many of their underrated songs and seemingly shaky relationships.
Paul Simon’s and Art Garfunkel’s refined folk music expanded the limits of the genre. They became one of the first artists to establish folk-rock & set a standard for songwriting. Entrancing guitar playing, haunting melodies, incredible harmonies, and deep lyrics about love, life, and social issues were at the core of their music.
The band has seen many reunions during the years, with long pauses in between that served to build solo careers that rivaled the group’s success. Many of you will agree that the duo was much more than the sum of the two extraordinary musicians. As I like to say, “Neither was as good as both, and both were better than most.”
Simon & Garfunkel Quick Facts
|Members||Paul Simon (born October 13, 1941), Art Garfunkel ( born November 5, 1941)|
|Years Active||1956–1970; 1972; 1975–1977; 1981–1984; 1990; 1993; 2003–2005; 2007–2010|
|Most Successful Albums/Song||“Bridge Over Troubled Waters” is the best-selling album; “The Sound of Silence” is the best-selling hit.|
|Genres||Folk – Rock, Soft Rock|
|Social Media||YouTube, Facebook Twitter|
|Labels||Big Records, Columbia|
|Website||Simon & Garfunkel|
|Awards||8 Grammy Competitive Awards, Lifetime Achievement Award, Hall of Fame Award, Kennedy Center Honors, Inducted in the Rock n Roll and Vocal Group Hall of Fame, etc.|
|Last Updated||July 2022|
Paul Frederic Simon (born October 13, 1941) is one of the most prolific songwriters of modern music. Simon never stopped writing songs or composting delicate guitar parts while being part of the band or in between their long pauses; Simon’s contribution to music is so vast that his solo career matches or even eclipses, at times, the legendary duo.
Paul Simon was born in New Jersey to Hungarian-Jewish parents and quickly moved to New York when he got immersed in the black music culture of the time. He wrote his first song when he was only 12 years old and became proficient in guitar soon after.
Simon was the perfect songwriter package, armed with a wide vocal range, guitar skills, and a tremendous knack for writing hit songs.
Simon & Garfunkel was not the only musical collaboration of Simon’s early career. Even though the duo met when they were only 11, Simon would release multiple songs as a solo artist and with other singers, some of which were minor hits, before the group solidified their image and released a debut record. Simon has released 14 studio albums in his career.
After the duo split, Simon continued writing hit songs and was consistent with a few gap years. His 7th solo album, “Graceland,” is a masterpiece that infuses all his musical experience and maturity. If you’re new to Paul Simon’s music, I recommend you listen to that album first.
Apart from his undisputed talent and easily being one of the top 10 songwriters in history, Simon’s consistency is admirable and rare. He has been inducted as a solo artist in the Rock n’ Roll and Songwriters hall of fame, receiving his own Kennedy Center Honors, among other multiple awards.
His contribution to society with his songs had Time Magazine select him on their 2006 list of “100 People Who Shaped the World.” For me, Paul Simon is the man behind the “perfect songs.” There are two elements in which only a handful of musicians ever reached a level of genius; masterful chord progressions and refined melodies.
Paul Simon could easily have been the 5th Beatle and matched Lennon & McCartney in both. His guitar playing, in my opinion, is sometimes very much underrated, even though it was the creative ground behind most Simon and Garfunkel songs.
Arthur Ira Garfunkel (born November 5, 1941) was the second half of the group and one of the most celebrated vocalists in music. Garfunkel was responsible for most of the lead singing due to his outstanding vocals, and he contributed to many songs with his poetry.
Garfunkel was behind the mystique and classical style of the duo and most of the legendary vocal arrangements. While Paul Simon was the driving engine behind most of the songs, Garfunkel added finesse and uniqueness to the music with his lead vocal and harmonies.
While their contribution is always a topic of debate, their solo careers proved that none could produce that uniqueness in style without the other.
Garfunkel’s solo career only started in 1973, after the duo had split and he had some experience as an actor. Of the ten albums he released, I recommend you listen to his most successful album, “Breakaway,” and the single “All I Want.” Garfunkel sets a soft rock style with that record which he develops throughout his career.
Art Garfunkel’s solo career was not as successful as Simon’s, who was, even before the band’s success, an established artist. Garfunkel had several hits and charting albums, yet his passions for academics, poetry, and acting focused him in other directions besides music.
If the most prepared musician was Simon, Garfunkel is undoubtedly an individual with many more talents and passions than what is reflected in his music.
Having been part of bands and worked with high-level musicians over the last years, I realize the importance each individual has and how the public often distorts the merits of time. My experience as a musician and a dedicated listen to the duo’s discography left no doubt that Garfunkel contributed just as much to all their records and live performances.
The Simon & Garfunkel band’s history starts very early in both members’ lives. The duo met in New York, where they lived three blocks apart and attended the same school Both eventually formed a streetcorner doo wop group with other friends, started performing as a duo in school events, and wrote their first song, “Hey Schoolgirl,” in high school.
Their first song would bring them a record deal at only 15 under the name “Tom and Jerry.” With help from their promoter, Sid Prosen, “Hey Schoolgirl” would become a regular staple of radio stations and reached 59 in the charts.
The duo went separate ways in music and life briefly as they studied in different universities and released singles separately. Eventually, they would reunite under Columbia records, first using the name “Kane & Garr” and later switching to “Simon & Garfunkel.” Even though now the name sounds a cliche, at the time, no other artist or band used their last names.
Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. (1963)
The debut album from the duo would come almost a decade after they first met each other. Even though they were young, they had experience in writing and performing together; thus, masterpieces such as “The Sound Of Silence” were present in the record.
The album is as good and refined as any later Simon & Garfunkel record. Garfunkel’s voice combines perfectly with Simon’s writing and folky guitar style. Legendary producer Tim Willson does an outstanding job of making the record sound compact and clean and turning well-written songs into hits.
Even though the album is instrumentally scarce, with only a few guitar tracks per song, the styles of music already blend folk with blues and rock The first song of the album, “You Can Tell The World,” is an upbeat tune that gradually sets the mood for the rest of the album.
The two back-to-back songs, “The Sound of Silence” and “He Was My Brother,” are the two favorites from the album due to the more profound lyrics and vocal melodies Paul Simon wrote both songs. The album was not successful immediately and two years needed to pass, along with a full band version of “The Sound Of Silence,” to reach number 30 on the US Charts.
Simon & Garfunkel – Sound Of Silence (1965)
Sounds of Silence (1966)
The success of the hit “The Sound of Silence” inspired the label and the duo to record another album. Sound of Silence continues the haunting harmony singing and folky style but with added instrumentation in some of the songs, which mostly explored the dark side of human relationships.
The band mix of “The Sound of Silence” is the best example of a surprise. Simon and Garfunkel were unaware that producer Tim Wills had planned on recording the version until it started playing on the radio. The new sound was exciting and rushed the duo to re-record a song from “The Paul Simon Songbook” in that version.
This version was a hit, yet I don’t think it captures the spirit of the lyrics as much as the acoustic version. If the electric version is more thrilling, the original acoustic one is hypnotic and mysterious, as it was meant to be. “Kathy’s song” is my favorite song from the album. Simon’s dedication to his girlfriend describes beautifully a bittersweet “what could have been” love story of his life.
“I Am a Rock” is a song written by Paul Simon about themes of longing and alienation, which was recorded both as an acoustic track and with full instrumentation. Even though Simon is a universal writer, I can relate more to his darker side and still prefer the acoustic version to the band mix.
As the duo later declared, Sounds of Silence was a somewhat rushed attempt at capitalizing on the success of their hit single. The album was a commercial success that launched the group into becoming the most popular folk duo of the era and bringing rock into the folk scene.
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (1966)
The next album would come immediately after the success of Sounds of Silence, but with changes in the writing, arrangement, and recording. Feeling secure about the momentary success, the band took their time producing the songs and spent three months in the studio working on the final release.
Nowadays, three months seem like a short time to produce an album. Those times though, albums were recorded and produced in days as studio time was costly. The extra care resulted in my favorite album from the duo that goes back to their refined acoustic roots;
The many harmony vocal overdubs and intricate guitars take the songs to another level. My favorite arrangement from the duo is the English Folk tune “Scarborough Fair,” which they sang in counterpoint with a Paul Simon Anti-war tune “‘Canticle.”
The melody and harmony are mostly a Garfunkel merit, showing his side as an arranger. The album’s name comes from a line used in the song, and it symbolizes how different the tracks of the album are from the other.
“Homeward Bound” is a fan favorite you should listen to from this album. The song is another dedication to Simon’s former lover Kathy. I especially like how descriptive, story-oriented, and non-cliche Simon’s love songs are. The various styles and pure acoustic delivery are the two main reasons this album is so emotional for me and me and many others.
The Graduate (1968)
An interesting side project of the band is the soundtrack for the movie “The Graduate” The duo recorded five songs from the film, including two early versions of “Mrs. Robinson.” The movie became a family favorite in my household as a child. Even though I did not know who Simon & Garfunkel was, the scene in which “Scarborough Fair” appeared was the one I waited for.
The Graduate – Scarborough Fair
The following album is the one I consider to be the duo’s most refined lyrical masterpiece. The conceptual album blends genres effortlessly and treats topics of life, mortality, the American Dream loss, and regret.
“Bookends” followed up on the success of The Graduate and all the previous work resulting in topping all the charts and propelling the duo to become the Greatest Rock Duo and the Greatest Singing Duo of the era. Paul Simon took most of the production work on himself and along with producer John Simon.
Bookends took advantage of all the commodities their multi-million dollar contracts gave them and used countless studio time among session musicians that added to the instrumentation. The song “Save The Life of My Child” is the best example.
The album is coincident with two major events. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated 24h before the album’s release, and the record served as a sort of comfort. The other major event was the release of the Beatle’s “Sgt Pepper.” Even though many fans see similarities between both and coincidences, I think the biggest thing they have in common is the success they achieved.
The last studio album of the duo is widely arguably their biggest work. It was a game-changer not only for their legacy but also for rock, pop, and folk music. The record spans beyond the two genres and is the ultimate legacy Simon & Garfunkel left.
As with the last record, studio time was not an issue, and everything was refined to perfection. 16- track recording had only become available, and they took advantage of all the possibilities the added instrumentation gave. Lyrically, I believe it’s Paul Simon’s catchiest work so far.
The album went number 1 in all the important charts and sold over 25 million copies, at the time the highest-selling album ever. All the songs from the album could be number 1 hits, and at a certain point, most were. From start to finish, the album is an emotional roller coaster.
Side one is my favorite, starting with the melancholic title track, the upbeat “Cecilia,” and the majestic instrumental “El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could).” The release of the albums would mark the duo’s split due to Simon focusing on his solo work and Garfunkel on his acting career.
Simon & Garfunkel’s Discography
The complete discography of the duo includes five studio albums, 15 compilation albums, four live albums, 26 singles, four box sets, and 1 EP. Considering the band’s creative high didn’t last many years while their legacy is immortal, it’s expected they have more compilations than studio albums.
Out of all the compilation albums, one I’d recommend you list is the 2018 “Greatest Hits.” The sound quality is excellent, and all the 14 tracks could be your favorite tune.
The most legendary performance of the duo is their reunion live album “The Concert in Central Park.” The performance amazed a crazy audience, with over 500 000 people showing up. It’s still the seventh-largest concert audience in US history. Much later in their career, the duo reunited again to perform for the 25 anniversary of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.
Simon and Garfunkel ( The Concert in Central Park 1981 ) Full Concert 16:9 HQ
Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water – Madison Square Garden, NYC – 2009/10/29&30
The duo is performing their hits at their peak. I love the stripped-down versions with only one guitar and the harmonized vocals in this performance.
Simon & Garfunkel – Holland – Live, 1966
Why Did Simon & Garfunkel Part Ways?
As both musicians have declared in later years, the relationship between the two had always been shaky and full of ups and downs. The many pauses they took to work on their solo work and brief reunions testify to that. The first rift started before the band made it big with Garfunkel’s disclosure that Simon was not focusing on the duo but secretly recording his solo work.
The “big” break-up came in 1970 due to artistic differences after releasing their most significant work, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” By the time they achieved that big of a success, it had become clear that they needed time to work independently and achieve.
It was not all calm arguments, though. According to Simon, the rift between the two was so vicious in 1993 that ‘they could’ve stabbed each other had there been a knife to hand.’ There are many stories of their clashes, but they never escalated to violence.
Simon seemed to feel slight jealousy over the fact that he was the one writing the song, but Garfunkel, the lead singer, got the same praise when they performed. On the other hand, Garfunkel had another perspective on their collaboration and preferred to leave Simon to do his thing and work on movies, as he said in a later interview.
“Our way of working was for Paul to write while we recorded, So we’d be in the studio for the better part of two months working on the three or four songs that Paul had written, recording them, and when they were done, we’d knock off for a couple of months while Paul was working on the next group of three or four songs. Then we’d book time and be in the studio again for three or four months, recording those . . . . Rather than wait for Paul to write the next bunch of songs, I went off and did this movie. It seems like the member’s individual talents kept the band together by allowing them to produce successful songs but also split them apart.
Simon & Garfunkel Legacy
No matter how much praise you give Simon and Garfunkel, there will still be a place left for more. Vocally, instrumentally, lyrically, and industry-wise they reached the status of names such as The Beatles and Elvis. What I love in all this is their simple style and professionalism in all they did.
For me, Paul Simon made me shift from an only guitar player to a guitar player who can write songs. He taught many other musicians and me the importance of using the instrument to create, not only perform. On the other hand, Garfunkel is the delicate touch every song needs to go from good to great.
Answer: Art Garfunkel’s net worth is $95 Million, while Paul Simon’s net worth is $200 Milion.
Answer: The duo’s last performance was in 2010, and there’s no news about another tour or concert. In 2014, Garfunkel told “Rolling Stone Magazine” that he believed he and Simon would tour again but said: “I know that audiences all over the world like Simon and Garfunkel I’m with them, But I don’t think Paul Simon’s with them.
Answer: Art Garfunkel played piano and guitar but never played with the duo live. He played the piano track for the song “Silent Night.”
- Art Garfunkel
- Simon & Garfunkel – Wikipedia
- Simon & Garfunkel
- Paul Simon
- Smooth Radio
- All Music
- The Harmony Game: Paul and Artie’s 80th Birthday Tribute
- The Harmony Game (2011) – IMDb
- The Simon and Garfunkel Story Part 1
- Paul Simon | Biography, Music, Albums, Influences, & Facts | Britannica