Simon and Garfunkel Biography
Last updated: 06/22/2014 05:32:49 PM
FORMED: 1964, New York, NY
A Short Story About Two Guys From Queens...
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel gained fame and notoriety in the 1960's via their aptly-titled duo, Simon & Garfunkel. Over the course of 6 years (1964-1970), the pair made folk-rock a serious art form, expanding upon the paths tread by such luminaries at the Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton and Peter, Paul and Mary.
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel both grew up in Kew Gardens, Queens, New York City. After becoming friends in middle school, the two started singing doo-wop in various groups. In 1955, the copyrighted their first composition, a song called "The Girl For Me." By 1957, they were local stars (at least amongst the high school crowd), and tried to take their musicianship to the next level and sell songs to the big publishing houses in Manhattan.
As such, they recorded demos. One of these demos - "Hey, Schoolgirl" - attracted the attention of Mr. Sid Prosen, A&R man for Big Records. Simon and Garfunkel soon landed their first record deal and a new stage name - Tom & Jerry. Art was Tom Graph (due to his love of charting songs on large sheets of graph paper), while Paul was Jerry Landis (Landis being the last name of his then-current girlfriend). With solid promotion and radio play in the greater New York City area, "Hey, Schoolgirl" rocketed to number 57 in the Billboard charts. This landed Tom & Jerry a gig on American Bandstand. Paul and Art were soon back in the studio, recording their next big hit.
However, none of the new songs made any dent on the fickle late-50s music scene. When they finished their high school education, Paul and Art went their separate ways, having failed to recapture the fortune of "Hey, Schoolgirl." Art went to college, working on a degree in mathematics and occasionally dabbling in song; Paul spent time working with musicians as a songwriter, musician and occasional producer.
Paul's musical work in the early 1960's was primarily as a contracted songwriter in the famed "Brill Building machine." He would write songs for other artists to record. He did try his hand at performing, however. Assuming a new stage name - Paul Kane - he wrote many ballads and rockabilly tunes which were recorded, both by Paul and as a member of the mildly-successful Tico and the Triumphs. Paul also had a famous collaborator - Carole King (then Carol Kane).
While attending college, Art recorded a few songs for Octavia Records, using the pseudonym Artie Garr. He even wrote some of his own ballads, such as "Private World." However, none of Artie's singles made any impact on the charts.
In 1963, Paul and Art recorded again, this time as Simon & Garfunkel, for CBS Records in New York City. The result of this was Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. The songs performed on this album were a mix of gospel and cover tunes, as well as a few Paul Simon originals - including "The Sound Of Silence." The sound was raw, with no heavy backing of the duo. The record sold rather disappointingly, and the duo split again, with Art returning to Columbia University to continue his study of mathematics.
During this time, Paul traveled to England in order to try and find new songwriting inspiration. While in England, he composed many songs with deep, dark lyrical images, akin to traditional English folk songs. These songs gained popularity in the clubs around England, as Paul embarked on a long and brutal, albeit popular, tour of "one-night-stands" (later referred to in "Homeward Bound"). After catching the eye of Judith Peipe (an older woman who was very supportive of up-and-coming folk artists), Paul soon found himself recording for the BBC as an "inspirational artist." These songs were hastily recorded for Columbia Records (a subsidiary of EMI Records in the U.K.), and The Paul Simon Songbook was released to critical acclaim and modest sales.
While Paul was in England in 1965, producers Tom Wilson and Bob Johnston happened upon an idea: why not take Bob Dylan's new, in-studio backing band and create a more "upbeat" Simon & Garfunkel tune? This formula had worked for Dylan, so it was reasoned that the other New York folk singers could follow suit. "The Sound Of Silence" was picked, and this "new" version charted very well.
Paul soon returned to the U.S., having heard of the great success of the "new" Simon & Garfunkel song. At first, Paul wasn't overly enthusiastic of the "Bob Dylan treatment" given his rather simple folk song. However, Paul has always coveted a hit, and, given the newfound popularity of folk-rock, he didn't want to pass up this opportunity. He and Art reconvened in the Columbia Records studios and recorded 10 new songs, many of which had appeared on Songbook, and Sounds Of Silence was born.
Silence was both a critical and popular success, and Simon & Garfunkel toured the U.S., playing at symphony halls, college demonstrations and everywhere in between. Bob Johnston recorded another album of original songs for the next Simon & Garfunkel album, the moody Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. It was this album which earned the pair a reputation as "pained intellectuals," an image which the pair tried their best to avoid. Although the duo recorded in the studio with a backing band, they still toured as a duo, singing only to the tune of Paul's acoustic guitar.
With PSRT, Art's voice became more prominent in songs, as his work on "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" and "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her" displayed his phenomenal vocal range. Paul answered with new rhythms, soulful leads on some songs, and intriguing harmony and counterpoint on others. Their fame continued to spread, and Paul was under heavy pressure to compose new songs. In 1967, Mike Nichols asked Paul to contribute some new music for his landmark film, The Graduate. Given very short notice, Paul and Art hastily recorded one new song, an embryonic version of "Mrs. Robinson," plus new versions of "The Sound Of Silence," "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine," and "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" (Paul withheld many other songs, which were earmarked for a new Simon & Garfunkel studio album). When the film was released later that year, it was a huge success, propelling Nichols, Simon & Garfunkel, Dave Grusin (who composed much of the instrumental music for the film) and Dustin Hoffman into superstardom.
After The Graduate, Simon & Garfunkel were a bona-fide worldwide success. They were also looking for new directions in their music, and a result of this searching was the seamless song cycle of Bookends. Their engineer on PSRT, Roy Halee, was promoted to producer. As producer, he displayed a daring style which complemented the ingenuity of Simon & Garfunkel to a T. The landmark tunes "America" and "Mrs. Robinson" (which was partially rewritten and completely rerecorded) were worldwide hits, and the frank, pained tones of the elderly in the Garfunkel creation, "Voices Of Old People," added a touch of reality to the airy and idyllic sounds which filled the rest of the album. Bookends, arriving hot on the heels of the soundtrack to The Graduate, joined it on the Billboard charts, giving Simon & Garfunkel two simultaneous top-five albums.
The Beginning of the End
By 1969, though, the working relationship between Paul and Art was getting strained. Endless tours had made both Paul and Art road-weary. Art was beginning to dabble in acting, a passion he had been honing since elementary school. When Mike Nichols offered Art one of the leading roles in the film adaptation of Joseph Heller's Catch 22, he jumped at the chance. No role could be found for Paul, due to the adaptation of Heller's book to a more film-friendly script.
Unfortunately, this did not rub well with Paul, who had been working on a paramount album for the pair, Bridge Over Troubled Water. Although some of the album had been recorded prior to Art's departure for Mexico (where the movie was being filmed), Paul was becoming increasingly annoyed with Art's apparent lack of dedication to the group. A tour in 1969, which featured a full backing band, went off without a hitch, and many new songs were premiered, including "The Boxer" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water," a song written by Paul for Art. They also performed for a TV special, but the political overtones of "Cuba Si, Nixon No" were a bit much for the sponsors, so the show never aired.
When Art returned to Mexico, Paul carried on with Bridge. He recorded enough music to fill the rest of the album, including many of the backing vocals and harmonies. When Art returned on breaks from filming, he added backing vocals to some of the tracks. When the album was finally released in 1970 (without "Cuba Si, Nixon No," "Feuilles-O" or "Groundhog," as both Art and CBS had vetoed their inclusion), it was widely heralded as Simon & Garfunkel's masterpiece. The recording industry agreed, bestowing Bridge with the honour of Grammys for the best album and best song of 1970. A small and successful tour followed the release of Bridge, with minimal backing besides Paul's guitar.
The tour only served as a brief respite from the differences which were growing between Paul and Art. While they still shared their love of music, their priorities had changed. A 1972 benefit concert for George McGovern (Democratic presidential candidate) made clear the rift which has developed between Paul and Art. While their performance was not without merit, the two never made eye contact, and their rather sullen expressions told the whole story: Simon and Garfunkel, as a recording and touring duo, were finished.
After the breakup, Art continued to make movies and occasionally dabble in music, while Paul bravely pursued a solo career. Both enjoyed varying levels of success, as their careers took them in similar, yet different, directions.
Art took a break from recording after the completion of the tour for Bridge Over Troubled Water. His recording career resumed in 1973 with the Roy Halee-produced Angel Clare, which featured the hit ballad "All I Know." Art had a number-one hit with his cover of "I Only Have Eyes For You," and he continued to record songs by various songwriters, especially Jimmy Webb. Art's tastes tended to favour ballads, always Art's strong point in the Simon & Garfunkel canon. He also recorded two songs with Paul Simon, including "My Little Town" (a piece from 1975 which appeared on albums by both Paul and Art), and a cover of Sam Cooke's "(What A) Wonderful World," which also featured James Taylor on guitar and vocals.
Paul enjoyed a string of top-10 hits throughout the 1970's, including "Kodachrome," "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" and "Still Crazy After All These Years." His eponymous 1971 album was a sparse break from the lush production of Bridge, and his follow-up albums continued to experiment with new sounds. He toured extensively, and managed to forge a solid and well-respected solo career as one of music's premier singer-songwriters. He also dabbled in film, by writing, producing and directing One-Trick Pony, a story about an unlucky singer-songwriter who tries to stage a comeback in the age of punk and new wave. The film, while it received generally favourable reviews, failed commercially. The soundtrack proved to be one of Paul's strongest recorded collections, featuring the hit "Late In The Evening."
During the late 1970's, Paul and Art mended many of the wounds created by their breakup. After the lack of success of One-Trick Pony (both the album and film did poorly in the marketplace), the two considered a more permanent reunion. The public reception of their heralded free concert in Central Park provided further impetus to try a long-term reunion. This reunion would feature all of the requisite trappings of popular music: a world tour and a new Simon & Garfunkel album. Much work was put into this effort, tentatively titled Think Too Much, and 10 songs were at least partially recorded by late-1981. The material, however, was very much Paul's, as it concerned his personal trials with love and relationships, both with Peggy Harper (his first wife) and Carrie Fisher (his girlfriend at the time, and wife for 8 months in 1983).
Given the personal nature of the material, it was inevitable that artistic differences entered into the equation. Art wanted more time to work on his harmonies, whereas Paul wanted to finish the record and tour. This dichotomy created yet another rift in the partnership between Paul and Art, to the point where he took all of Art's vocals and summarily erased them. The album, after a few more months of work, became Hearts And Bones. While Paul and Art remained friends, their attempt at rediscovering an artistic partnership had fallen short.
Through the 1980's, Paul explored more international rhythms, a passion which he had displayed since his early folk days, when England was his foreign passion. After the critical panning which befell Hearts And Bones (many critics and fans couldn't identify with the deep introspection of the songs), Paul felt more compelled to find new ways to express his ideas.
In 1985, inspired by a bootleg tape of "township jive" music, he traveled to South Africa and fell in love with the sounds of the black ghettos. He became especially fond of the sounds of Ladysmith Black Mombazo, a multi-talented choir. Paul also found many talented musicians in South Africa. He was convinced that this was his next career move, and recorded Graceland for a 1986 release. Reuniting with longtime friends Richard Tee (keyboards), Steve Gadd (drums), and Linda Ronstadt (vocals), Paul enjoyed both critical and commercial success with Graceland, winning "Album of the Year" honours at the 1987 Grammy Awards.
Paul followed this success with a large-scale concert tour, featuring his South African band and Ladysmith Black Mombazo. This was a monumental task, given the many sanctions against South Africa at the time, when Apartheid was the status quo.
Graceland was followed up in 1990 by Rhythm of the Saints, an album inspired by the rhythms of Brazil. In 1900 and 1991, Paul toured with a conglomerate band who consisted of a mixture of South African, Brazilian, and American musicians. This tour ended with two monumental performances: a free concert in Central Park (almost 10 years after the record-breaking Simon & Garfunkel show); and an appearance on "MTV Unplugged."
Meanwhile, Art took time off in the 1980s and early 1990s, only occasionally recording and performing, and playing an occasional film role. Shaken from the suicide of his long-time live-in girlfriend, Laurie Bird, in 1979, he was content to pursue more "personally fulfilling" endeavours, such as walking the length of the U.S.A (an 12-year endeavour which ended in April 1996). He did perform a few charity concerts with Paul, but any hopes for a more long-term reunion were quickly downplayed by both parties. However, in 1992 Art expressed a desire to work with Paul again and sing the old Simon & Garfunkel songs "the way we used to."
Paul and Art did mend their old wounds, though, and in 1993 Art was invited to tour with Paul in a career retrospective. Simon & Garfunkel songs dominated the set, with Art taking the honours when "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was performed. The duo toured until early 1994, after which they split again (amicably) to pursue solo projects.
Where are they now?
In late-1997, Paul put the finishing touches on The Capeman , a musical based on a gangster in 1950's New York City. The score features a great number of doo-wop tunes, hearkening back to the days of "Paul Kane." After many adjustments and critical staff changes, the musical opened in January 1998, only to close in March of the same year. Critics panned its rather haphazard production and dark subject matter, though they praised Simon's music.
Simon recovered from the trials of Broadway with a monumental summer tour in 1999, where he teamed with Bob Dylan for the first time. Each artist played his own set, each of which was joined by a short duet set featuring both men. The tour received critical raves for both Simon and Dylan, although no plans materialized for additional dates.
Paul released his latest album, You're The One, on October 3, 2000. The songs on You're The One build on the styles of Graceland, Rhythm Of The Saints and The Capeman, blending a new, narrative lyric style with a more guitar-oriented sonic tapestry. The album features 11 tracks, and the musicians involved worked with Paul throughout the 1990s. A small tour of Europe took place in October, followed by a short North American tour in November and December. In the summer of 2001, Simon headlined a double-bill tour with Brian Wilson, mastermind of The Beach Boys.
Upon completion of his walk across the U.S. in 1996, Art recorded a new album during a live concert at Ellis Island Across America features songs inspired by his 11-year trek, including many Simon & Garfunkel favourites. He also filmed the concert for a Disney Channel special. The album was released in December 1996.
Art followed this with Songs From A Parent To A Child, an album of fun songs for children and featuring his son, James, in June 1997. Art is currently in the midst of compiling his first "adult" studio album since 1988. The album is due in late 2001. Art continues to tour, and rang in the 2000 new year on a boat bound for Antarctica. This year, Art's tour will take him throughout Japan and the United States.
Paul, Art, Roy Halee and Bob Irwin compiled a new 3CD box set of remastered and rare S&G material, entitled Old Friends, in late 1997. Marking the first proper remastering of the Simon & Garfunkel catalogue, the set features a handful of unreleased and rare studio tracks, as well as live material from the duo's halcyon days.
Individual remasters of the individual albums were released August 21, 2001. Each CD features bonus tracks, most of which have never seen release in any form. A box set - The Columbia Studio Recordings 1964-1970 - features all five albums in a deluxe box, each disc having a mini-LP cardboard sleeve, and the box featuring an expanded-form 72-page booklet with exclusive notes and photos. A double-disc live album, Live At Carnegie Hall, is expected sometime shortly before the 2001 holiday season.