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Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits: A Look Back
Simon and Garfunkel in Concert
"Hello darkness my old friend", not many artists would start a song like that back in the sixties, and yet, this line became famous as part of the song "Sounds of Silence". I realize if you were born after 1970 you may never have heard of Simon and Garfunkel, but, may have heard of Paul Simon. You see, after they split up Paul Simon continued to write and sing songs on his own. Maybe you heard of "Mother and Child Reunion" or "You Can Call Me Al"? Both Paul Simon hits.
But, what about Simon and Garfunkel? Let's go back and take a look at the duo that was a hit as folk singers and rock and rollers!
Tom & Jerry
Simon and Garfunkel - Early Days
I'm going to really test your memory. Do you remember a song called "Hey School Girl"?
Hey, school girl in the second row
The teacher's lookin' over
So I got to whisper way down low
You say, woo-bop-a-loo-cha-bah, let's meet
After school at three
This IS a brain teaser. A hit from 1957 sung by Tom and Jerry. Besides being a hit, the flip side was a popular one as well. Do you remember "Dancin' Wild"? If neither of these songs ring a bell, you're too young! Now that you're scratching your head let me explain that Tom and Jerry are Simon and Garfunkel. Let me further explain, in case you haven't figured it out for yourself, 1957 is a long time ago. I was only ten years old but had an older brother who played this music and yes, I still have the 45 rpm of this song. Paul Simon once admitted, years later, that the name "Tom and Jerry" came from the cartoon characters; the cat, Tom and the mouse, Jerry.
They met in grammar school during a play of "Alice in Wonderland" but didn't sing until later. Paul Simon has said that "Artie" was the most talented singer in the neighborhood, "in the fourth grade, that prompted me to become a singer."
They began writing songs in 1955 and recorded the aforementioned two songs in 1957 for two different record labels. They recorded it thinking it would be their 'swan song'. Although it was a popular song it only reached #49 on the charts. Obviously, things didn't go too well. After graduating from high school they both went on to college; Simon to Queens College in Queens, and Garfunkel to Columbia University in Manhattan.
In 1964 the duo got together again and changed their names from Tom and Jerry to Simon and Garfunkel. They released an album that was mostly folk music which, at the time, was also a flop. Paul Simon moved to England (without Art Garfunkel) and continued to perform and write songs. I might add here that Simon and Garfunkel's idols were the Everly Brothers whose harmony greatly influenced the music of Simon and Garfunkel. Its no wonder they were both my favorites!
Sound of Silence
Hello,darkness my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left it's seed while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the Sound of Silence
Simon and Garfunkel As We Know Them
Along came the sixties and folk music and Simon and Garfunkel back together. This time they made it as a top folk music and rock duo. Paul Simon was, and still is, a very talented song writer. With very few exceptions, he wrote all of their songs. Their reunion was a success. In 1966 "I Am A Rock" reached number three on the record charts. Probably one of their most famous and recognizable songs is "Mrs. Robinson". Most of you will remember it from the movie "The Graduate". "Mrs. Robinson" won the Grammy for Record of the Year in 1969 and Paul Simon was awarded Grammy for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special.
Trouble began between the two in 1969. There were disagreements about songs to record for an album, "Bridge Over Troubled Water". Despite their troubles, the title song of the album, "Bridge Over Troubled Waters', featuring Garfunkel's incredible voice, reached number one on the charts and stayed there for six weeks. At the Grammy Awards, that album took home Album of the Year and Record Of The Year, Best Engineered Record, Best Contemporary Song, Song Of The Year, and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists. Their next album in 1972 was probably their most beloved by fans, "Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits. But, the second split followed.
Paul Simon continued writing, singing and recording albums. Garfunkel did some acting and recording but did not reach the level of success Paul Simon did. In 1972 they reunited for a concert at Madison Square Garden to benefit George McGovern. In 1975 they appeared on Saturday Night Live, and reunited again in Central Park for a free concert in 1981. They did several reunion tours including a tour featuring special guests, The Everly Brothers! Actually, I got to see them at one of those reunion concerts in NYC. What a thrill. Even though I was sitting behind them, on a circular stage, they made it a point to turn around and sing to those of us "in the back". It's a concert I'll never forget. I think my voice returned about three days later.
In 2010, Art Garfunkel suffered from vocal chord paresis (paralysis) which ended their reunions for a while.
Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits
Sounds of Silence
Bridge Over Troubled Waters
El Condor Pasa/If I Could
For Emily: Wherever I May Find Her
I Am a Rock
A Hazy Shade of Winter
The Only Living Boy in New York
Closer Look at Some Songs
On again, off again, they are still loved by many fans past and present. Their voices and their music are incomparable.
Take "Mrs. Robinson". Though it was written for "The Graduate" there was a lot going on in that song. It is said it was originally entitled "Mrs. Roosevelt" but was changed for the movie. When it was Mrs.Roosevelt Simon wrote, "We'd like to help you learn to help yourself. Look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes" and "Going to the candidates debate. Laugh about it, shout about it. When you've got to choose. Every way you look at it, you lose." Some believe those words show what a strong woman Mrs. Roosevelt was but at that time women couldn't be in politics though many believe she was definitely the power behind the President. "Hide it in the pantry with your cupcakes" is believed to have meant her pride and political aspirations, NOT her pot.
What about "Sound of Silence"? That song is ripe with interpretations. It is believed Paul Simon took six months to write this song. The most popular interpretation is of a man alone. Nobody is listening to him, in fact, nobody is listening to anyone. According to songfacts.com, "The opening line, "Hello darkness, my old friend," came from Simon's time as a boy when he would sing in the bathroom with the lights out, enjoying the acoustics from the tiles that provided a doo-wop reverb sound."
"People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening,'' an unfortunate sign of the sixties, people not listening to each other, even when they are speaking.
Then there's "I Am A Rock". A truly sad song. It appears to be a song about someone who feels so alone. "I am an island" . He's steeled himself against the pain of love and the betrayal of others, "I've built walls, A fortress deep and mighty, That none may penetrate. I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain." This poor soul is trying to overcome his loneliness and hurt, ending with "A rock feels no pain, and an island never cries".
I could write and write about Simon and Grafunkel and their fabulous music. Their continuing popularity because of their music. Back in the day they were believed to have a 'social' conscience. Whatever it is, their music sticks in your head. Why, you may even leave this hub humming one of their great hits! Even songs like "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme" stick with you. No doubt that song was influenced by Paul Simon's stay in England.
However, all good things must end and so must this hub. I hope you have enjoyed reading about one of my favorite duos. Please leave comments and thoughts.
Their vocal harmonies, and memorable songs will be with us for a long time.
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