On September 19, 1981, Simon & Garfunkel reunited for a free public concert on the Great Lawn of New York City’s Central Park, raising awareness and funding to help restore the world’s most famous urban park. The duo had rarely performed since their breakup in 1970, but their music continued to resonate with the city from which they came. This unforgettable performance, which drew one of the largest audiences ever assembled for a single concert, features all of Simon & Garfunkel’s greatest hits as well as selections from their solo catalogs, newly arranged with an expanded 11-man band.
Simon & Garfunkel, quintessential New Yorkers, embodied the spirit of the city, the times and generations of music lovers. “They stayed around the city, continuing to assimilate its cultural resources, recycle them and give them back,” Stephen Holden wrote in his review of the concert for Rolling Stone. With more than 500,000 people in attendance, THE CONCERT IN CENTRAL PARK was Simon & Garfunkel’s biggest gift to their hometown.
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, both born in 1941, grew up three blocks away from each other in Kew Garden Hills, Queens, New York, and met in grade school in 1953 when they were both cast in the same school play. Simon, a guitarist and aspiring songwriter, and Garfunkel, an extraordinary singer with a pure tenor range and uncanny intonation, began performing together as Tom and Jerry in the mid-1950s, releasing their first professional recording in 1957.
Their original sound, influenced by the harmonies of the Everly Brothers and the rhythms and poetic swing of Chuck Berry, made a quantum leap during the Greenwich Village folk music scene of the early 1960s. Paul Simon’s songwriting developed along provocative and topical lines in 1964, when the pair recorded Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., their first album as Simon & Garfunkel and the first for Columbia Records.
Though their debut reached only a small audience when first released, one of the tracks, “The Sound of Silence,” a haunting acoustic recording illuminated by the signature solo and harmony vocal blends S&G invented and perfected, had been overdubbed with electric instruments and released to radio, unbeknownst to either Simon or Garfunkel. The electrified version of “The Sound of Silence” became a massive hit, one of the archetypal anthems of an emerging folk-rock movement. Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. was re-released in January 1966, alongside Simon & Garfunkel’s second studio album, Sounds of Silence, which included the electric hit single version of the song.
“The Sound of Silence” launched a long unbroken chain of hits and album successes for Simon & Garfunkel, including “I Am a Rock,” “Mrs. Robinson,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” from their fifth and final studio album of the same title. Going out on the high note of Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon & Garfunkel broke up their musical partnership to pursue individual musical, artistic and personal directions.
SIMON & GARFUNKEL: THE CONCERT IN CENTRAL PARK features these performances:
“Me and Julio”
“April Come She Will”
“A Heart in New York”
“Bridge Over Troubled Water”
“Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover”
“59th St. Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”
“The Sound of Silence”
“Late in the Evening”
Simon & Garfunkel: The Concert in Central Park Preview