The dulcet harmonies of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel remain one of the more cherished sounds of the Sixties. The music made by the Forest Hills, New York, natives was fueled by a mutual love of early rock and roll and a search for inspiration beyond the conventional borders of folk and pop. Simon teamed up musically with childhood acquaintance Garfunkel in high school. Using the alias Tom and Jerry, they recorded an Everly Brothers-style original ("Hey, Schoolgirl") that sold 150,000 copies. Reverting to their surnames, Simon and Garfunkel scored a folk-rock hit with “The Sounds of Silence,” one of the cornerstone songs of 1965 with its urbane, poetical lyrics and astute blend of folk and rock elements.
As their literate brand of folk-rock connected with listeners across the age spectrum, the button-down duo became unlikely stars. In 1966 alone, they placed three albums and four singles in the Top Thirty, including such solipsistic singalong favorites as “I Am a Rock” (#3) and “Homeward Bound” (#5). The meticulous, bookish duo rose to heights unheard of for folk performers with the albums Bookends and Bridge Over Troubled Water, as well as their soundtrack contributions to the film The Graduate. Ultimately, Bridge Over Troubled Water - which featured the hymnlike title track, sung by Garfunkel in an arching tenor - topped the U.S. album charts for ten weeks and went on to sell 13 million copies worldwide.
After Simon and Garfunkel’s 1970 breakup, both men entered the new decade as solo artists. Garfunkel tended toward adult-oriented pop, often interpreting the songs of composer/arranger Jimmy Webb, while Simon wrote and recorded wry, angst-filled songs (e.g., “Kodachrome,” “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover") spiced with ethnic accents: gospel, reggae, Cajun, Peruvian and more. On September 19, 1981, Simon and Garfunkel reunited for a free outdoor concert before a crowd of 400,000 in New York’s Central Park. The brief liaison resulted in a live double album and a Top Forty hit - the duo’s fifteenth, and their first since the one-off single “My Little Town” in 1975 - with their spirited rendition of the Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up Little Susie.” Rumors of a more lasting collaboration were scotched when Simon erased Garfunkel’s harmony vocals from Hearts and Bones (1983), releasing it as a solo album instead.
However, the duo did finally come together again for several charity shows in the early Nineties, and in 1993 they embarked on a 21-night stand at New York’s Paramount Theater, as well as a tour of the Far East. Though technically these evenings were billed as Paul Simon retrospectives, Garfunkel appeared in two of the four nightly segments and fans considered it a de facto reunion, regardless of billing.