During the 1960s, Simon & Garfunkel became the darlings of folk rock. They sold millions of albums during their lifetime and created something unique in the music industry. Their shows would be almost always sold-out due to their popularity. But who were they? How much do you really know about them? They were icons of their times and are still regarded as major figures in the history of music. Their story is an interesting one.
They started out as nothing and ended up as one of the best-selling music groups around the world. Today they are considered to be one of the most successful folk-rock duos in history. Let’s now talk about who Simon & Garfunkel were, their musical career and relationship, and how they reached the heights of success.
Who was Paul Simon?
Paul Simon was born to Louis and Belle in Newark, New Jersey, on 13th October 1941. He was born in a Hungarian-Jewish family. Paul’s mother was a teacher at an elementary school, and his father was a college professor alongside being a dance band leader and double-bass player. Louis was also a big New York Yankees fan, and Paul himself was a ballplayer.
At the age of 11, Paul began his career in music with his friend Art Garfunkel. He graduated in 1963 from Queens College. Paul got a degree in English Literature, and he also studied for one semester at Brooklyn Law School.
Who Was Art Garfunkel?
Art Garfunkel was born to Rose and Jacob Garfunkel, a Romanian-Jewish family in Forest Hills, New York City, on 5th November 1941. His father was a traveling salesman, and his grandparents had immigrated to the US from Iași. He was a middle child with two siblings named Jules and Jerome.
Art was a basketball fan, and this love for basketball started because he got a lung infection. As he could not run around during this illness, he spent his summer playing basketball. This would go on to develop the love for the sport in his heart.
Art worked in sales for a while, but he worked as an actor in Ohio before that. He developed a passion for singing early in his age in first grade. This passion for singing would be further developed in him when his father bought him a wire recorder. Art would record himself singing and listen to those recordings—this way, he learned how to improve his singing.
Art became friends with Paul in sixth grade, and so the duo was formed. According to Art, Simon developed his passion for singing when he heard Art sing a rendition of “Too Young” by Nat King Cole.
Who Were Simon & Garfunkel?
Simon & Garfunkel were a very popular folk-rock duo who gained a lot of popularity during the 1960s. The duo consisted of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Paul Simon held the post of writer and singer, while Art Garfunkel held the singer’s post. Their work, including “Mrs. Robinson,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and “the Boxer,” etc., achieved the prestigious number one worldwide on single charts.
They performed sold-out shows and sold millions of albums. Their albums and singles were straight hits, thanks to their beautiful singing and writing. Despite all this, their friendship was usually strained, with the duo splitting up and reuniting multiple times throughout their life.
They both tried to split up and make their own name. However, both artists found success in the end as a duo as well as solo artists.
Simon & Garfunkel’s Early Life
Both Simon and Garfunkel grew up in a mostly Jewish neighborhood during the 1940s and the 1950s. They grew up in Queens, New York, just three blocks away from each other, and they attended the same schools. Both of them had a love for music and singing from an early age as they grew up listening to the radio.
This love for music was further increased by rock and roll, which was gaining popularity at that time. They were particularly fascinated by the Everly Brothers. Simon first got interested in Garfunkel’s singing when he heard Garfunkel sing in a fourth-grade talent show.
Their friendship started when they both appeared in an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland in 1953. This friendship would lead them to perform together as a duo in school dances.
They wrote their first song in 1956, which they called “The Girl for Me.” They then recorded their second song called “Hey, Schoolgirl” at the age of 15. This song would go on to become their first professional work. While recording this song, they caught the attention of Sid Prosen, a promoter. Sid Prosen talked with their parents and then signed them to his small record label called Big Records.
Simon & Garfunkel’s Musical Career
Prosen renamed the duo Tom & Jerry. The duo then released “Hey, Schoolgirl” as a single with the help of Prosen. They appeared on American Bandstand, which helped promote the record, and it worked. The song reached number 49 on the Billboard’s charts. The record sold over 100,000 copies, and it was a great success.
They would go on to release two more songs, but these songs would not be successful. Then Simon recorded some solo songs without telling Garfunkel. This action made Garfunkel feel betrayed, and this incident became a source of emotional tension between the two throughout their relationship. The duo then split up due to the unsuccessfulness of their songs as Tom & Jerry.
They both went their way as solo artists and then reunited again in the early 1960s. Once reunited, they became interested in flock-rock music. After an audition, they got signed by Columbia Records and renamed their duo from Tom & Jerry to Simon & Garfunkel. Their next major hit was “The Sound of Silence,” which was followed by four more records.
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” would be their final studio album, and it was a major hit. Although by this point, they were one of the most influential groups in the music industry’s history, tension again rose in their relationship. According to Mort Lewis, both Simon and Garfunkel envied each other’s position in the team. Garfunkel developed an interest in being an actor. This meant that he would be away for long periods, and Simon would have to wait for him to come back and record the songs Simon had written.
The duo again split up and pursued solo careers. Simon became a successful solo artist, whereas Garfunkel pursued both recording and acting careers. Although they reunited in 1975 and performed together, they never created new material.
They performed a concert to an audience of 500,000 in New York’s Central Park. The live recording of the concert rated number 6 on Billboard 200 album charts. A new album was set to be recorded during the 1980s, but it was canceled due to artistic differences. They periodically perform together but generating new material seems not to be a possibility.
Although the duo Simon & Garfunkel had a rocky relationship, they still produced some of the most iconic songs in the history of the music industry. Their songs were hit and went on to make generations their fans.