Special set by Simon & Garfunkel
November 29, 1969
They are “inventive and poetic”, according to Leonard Bernstein. Ringo Starr of The Beatles had admitted that he “plays their albums all the time.” They’ve been dubbed “artful troubadours” by spokesmen for the voluble segment of the college set. Music critics generally concur that theirs are important voices in the current pop folk scene. They are billed as Simon and Garfunkel.
The special sounds identified with Simon and Garfunkel, who will star in their first network television special Sunday at 8pm. on Channels 2 and 12, have been described as a type of “low-key folk-rock that relies heavily on melody and adult lyrics.” Their music has also been categorized as “only peripherally related to rock.”
Neither Paul Simon, who writes the songs and plays the guitar, nor Arthur Garfunkel, co-singer and arranger, is extremely concerned with what their combined brand of music is called — folk, rock, pop. Folk rock, pop-folk or even hippie rock as one critic termed it.
“I’m a songwriter who uses a guitar,” says Simon, the small dark-haired half of the team. “I write songs that are a reflection of myself. Then Art (the tall, lean tenor-half with a shock of blond hair) and I sing them to the accompaniment of my guitar. This gives the songs a feeling of folk music, but it’s not folk music and it’s not rock. I guess we’re pop because what we sing is popular. “Each song is a picture of me the day I write it. It’s like home movies.”
The first picture of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel together demands a flashback to approximately a decade and a half ago when, as schoolmates in Forest Hills. N. Y., they both “dug rock and roll shows when the audiences were mostly made up of kids from Harlem.” That middleclass Forest Hills neighborhood where they were born three weeks and three blocks apart has had an influence on their music. “I write about the things I see around, about the way people are,” says Simon. “And the people I know most about are middle class”.
The duo first performed together in a grade school production of “Alice in Wonderland.” Simon was cast as the White Rabbit and Garfunkel as the Cheshire Cat. As their common musical interests grew, Simon, whose father had been for years a radio station staff musician, invited Garfunkel, his fellow rock and roll-enthusiast schoolmate, to accompany him in a demonstration recording of two Simon originals. The record led to the boys’ brief career as rock-and-roll singers Tom and Jerry, a stint which included a relatively popular platter entitled “Hey, Schoolgirl” and an appearance on Dick C lark’s television show. It wasn't until Simon and Garfunkel had finished college - Queens College and Columbia, respectively — that the two young artists made their first album, after switching their musical tastes to folk.
The album, “Wednesday Morning. 3 A.M.” was released with “absolutely no success whatsoever,” recalls Simon. But “Sounds of Silence,” one of the songs included in it, was re-recorded as a single with a rock beat superimposed. The result was a hit that sold about a million copies, and Simon and Garfunkel, who weren't even present at the final recording, were fast becoming names as recognizable as Tom and Jerry.
The two musicians started bringing to the concert hall and campus their now familiar musical interpretations of poetry —some as classic as Matthew ArnoId's “Dover Beach” and Edwin Arlington Robinson's “ Richard Cory,” a poem from which they also borrowed the title. Their unusual mixture of pop music with a style often reminiscent of T. S. Eliot began to capture imaginations, and their references in song to such non-lyrical terms as a national bus line, a major turnpike, a widely circulated newspaper, well known personalities and various brands of foods become a Simon and Garfunkel hallmark.