Simon & Garfunkel: Rolling Stones #40 Greatest Artist of All Time


Simon & Garfunkel
Aka: Tom & Jerry
Origin:
Kew Gardens Hills, Queens
New York City, U.S.A.
Genres:
Folk rock
Years active:
1956–1964, 1965–1970

Rolling Stone ranks Simon & Garfunkel number 3 on their 2003  list of 20 Greatest Duos of All Time and number 40 of  100 Greatest Artists. They have three of the 2003 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: number 234, 'Bookends,' number 202, 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme,' and number 48, 'Bridge Over Troubled Water.'  They have two songs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and three of the songs in the Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
(sign up to follow by email)

Early Life

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel grew up three blocks from one another, in Queens New York. They met in elementary school. Simon saw Garfunkel sing in a fourth grade talent show and thought it a good way to attract girls. He started a friendship in 1953 when were they both in a sixth grade adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.

Tom & Jerry

They went to Forest Hills in their high school years. Rock & Roll was emerging and they were both fans of The Everley Brothers. They formed a doo-wop group and performed as a duo at school dances.  By 1957, under the name Tom & Jerry, the teenagers recorded "Hey Schoolgirl." A promoter, Sid Prosen, signed them to his independent label, Big Records, after speaking to their parents. They were 15-years-old.

'Tom & Jerry' publicity photo

Prosen, using the payola system, bribed DJ Alan Freed $200 to play the single on his radio show. "Hey Schoolgirl" attracted regular rotation on nationwide AM pop stations. It sold over 100,000 copies and landed on Billboard's chart at number 49. Sixty-three years ago today, on November 22, 1957, they made their first appearance on ABC-TV's dance show American Bandstand alongside Jerry Lee Lewis. 

Hey Schoolgirl
Tom & Jerry


Simon & Garfunkel shared two percent from royalties of the hit, approximately $4,000 . They released two more singles on Big Records ("Our Song" and "That's My Story"), but neither was successful. They split up for the first time.

Wednesday Morning 3 A.M


With a growing public interest in folk music, they regrouped in 1963 and were signed to Columbia Records as Simon & Garfunkel. Their debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., sold poorly. Once again they disbanded.; Simon took his solo career to England. 

The Sound of Silence

Simon & Garfunkel's song, "The Sound of Silence," made the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's list of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. It's number 157 on the Rolling Stone's 2003 list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. 

Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. photo shoot

Producer Tom Wilson discovered radio stations had begun to play "The Sound of Silence," a track from Wednesday Morning 3AM.  A late-night disc jockey in Boston was spinning the song overnight and it caught on with college kids. The song made its way to Cocoa Beach, Florida, and caught the students coming down for spring break.

Wilson had also produced Bob Dylan's electric folk rock debut, "Like a Rolling Stone." He remixed the original acoustic version of "The Sound of Silence" with electric guitar, bass and drums; then serviced it to college FM rock stations.

On
 June 15, 1965, a new version of "The Sound of Silence" - overdubbed with electric guitar and drums - was recorded. The single was released on September 13, 1965. in the U.S. and became an AM radio hit  It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and by January 1966, "The Sound of Silence" sold over one million copies.

 The Sound of Silence
Simon & Garfunkel


Disturbed

The heavy metal band Disturbed covered "Sounds of Silence" on their 2015 Immortalized album. Guitarist Dan Donegan said they didn't want to cover up singer David Draiman's vocal with "loud, aggressive, and distorted guitars" on their version. 

Disturbed

He added:  "We wanted to showcase his vulnerability and take a left-field approach. The strings and violins really deepen it. It's something that might shock people because we went down a new path altogether. We did what felt right and saw the vision through."

Released as a single, Disturbed's cover became their highest-charting song on the Hot 100, peaking at number 42. Paul Simon endorsed Disturbed's version when the band performed on Conan. Simon sent David Draiman an email shortly after, saying,  "Really powerful performance on Conan the other day. First time I'd seen you do it live. Nice. Thanks."

The Sound of Silence
Disturbed


The Boxer

Simon & Garfunkel's song, "The Boxer," is number 106 on the Rolling Stone's 2003 list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 1984,  in a Playboy interview,  Simon revealed he was the boxer.  

"I think the song was about me: everybody's beating me up, and I'm telling you now I'm going to go away if you don't stop. By that time we had encountered our first criticism.  For the first few years, it was just pure praise. It took two or three years for people to realize that we weren't strange creatures that emerged from England but just two guys from Queens who used to sing rock'n'roll. And maybe we weren't real folkies at all! Maybe we weren't even hippies!"

Simon & Garfunkel

Simon used "Lie la lie" as a placeholder lyric because he couldn't find the right words. Other examples of placeholders include the "I know" chorus in "Ain't No Sunshine" and Otis Redding's whistling in "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay."  In a 1990 interview with SongTalk magazine, Simon said: "I thought that 'lie la lie was a failure of songwriting. I didn't have any words! ...But, it's not a failure of songwriting, because people like that and they put enough meaning into it, and the rest of the song has enough power and emotion." 

 The Boxer
Simon & Garfunkel


Bridge Over Troubled Water

Simon & Garfunkel's song, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," made the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's list of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. It's number 48 on the Rolling Stone's 2003 list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

"Bridge Over Troubled Water" is one of the few songs to top the US and UK charts at the same time. It was number 1 in the US for six weeks and number 1 in the UK for three. It's the biggest selling hit ever for Columbia Records.  The song is about providing comfort to a person in need. Around the time he wrote this, Simon was listening to a lot of music by the gospel group The Swan Silvertones. It started as a modest gospel hymn but became more dramatic as Simon put it together. 

He wrote this song with just two verses. Garfunkel and producer Roy Halee convinced him to write a third verse: the "Sail on, Silver-girl" part. After hearing the final production, Paul thought it was too long, too slow and too orchestral to be a hit. Clive Davis at Columbia Records heard the commercial appeal. He insisted they market it like crazy and use it as the album title.

Simon & Garfunkel

Speaking in the documentary The Making of Bridge Over Troubled Water, the songwriter said, "I have no idea where it came from. It came all of the sudden. It was one of the most shocking moments in my songwriting career. I remember thinking, 'This is considerably better than I usually write."  At first, Simon thought the opening lyrics were too simple: "When you're weary, feeling small.When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all." But he realizes now the simplicity gave the song a universal appeal.

 Bridge Over Troubled Water
Simon & Garfunkel

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Dire Straits: Sultans of Swing & Brothers in Arms

The Monkees: Two of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll

Pop Up Video: Sledgehammer (1986)