Marking the start of a long and hugely successful career in the music industry, American folk duo Simon and Garfunkel shot to stardom in 1965, when they were both only 24 years old.
Paul Simon and Arthur “Art” Garfunkel had been friends since their schooldays in Forest Hills. Meeting in 1953, when they were both 11 years old, they shared a passion for music and began song writing while they were still at school. Although Simon’s father was a dance band leader, Garfunkel’s background wasn’t a musical one.
First hit single
They formed a band called Tom and Jerry for the teenage market, releasing their debut single, Hey Schoolgirl, in 1957 on Big Records.
They had a massive hit on their hands when they were only 15 years old, selling 100,000 records and reaching number 49 in the Billboard top 100 singles chart. While they were still at Forest Hills High School, they earned $4,000 royalties – about $95,000 in today’s money!
After leaving school, Simon and Garfunkel attended different universities and their musical partnership temporarily dissolved.
Simon and Garfunkel debut
In 1963, the duo got back together, using the stage name Kane and Garr initially, but soon reverting to their own surnames. They moved away musically from the teenage harmonies of Tom and Jerry and adopted their familiar folk sound.
They didn’t repeat the instant success of their teens and spent two years playing the live circuit, in particular, the Monday night open mike sessions at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich, trying to catch the eye of talent scouts and record producers.
They performed some new, original material and one song became their debut hit as Simon and Garfunkel – The Sound of Silence in 1965. Simon had actually written it when he was 21, playing on his guitar at home.
Hitting the top spot in the US charts, it also made the top 10 in Australia, the UK, Austria and Germany. This was the start of their long career as a folk-rock duo which lasted until 2010. They released 26 singles, five studio albums, 15 compilation albums and four live albums.
Slip Slidin’ Away
Written by Paul Simon and released in 1977, one of their most popular hits was Slip Slidin’ Away. It charted at number five in the United States and number 36 in the UK and was a favourite during their live gigs.
Originally released on Paul Simon’s solo album, Greatest Hits Etc, the song was often performed live by Simon and Garfunkel. The lyrics describe three different people, who start out with a passion to achieve things, but somewhere along the line, the realities of life deter them and they retreat from their desire to do anything other than run-of-the-mill pastimes.
The words “Slip Slidin’ Away” refer to their dreams, as everything seems to be farther out of reach the older they get. The song is intended to make listeners think about their own life, in particular how we can all see our dreams passing us by if we’re not careful.
The third person in the song is an absent father, who kisses his sleeping son goodbye and then heads back home feeling melancholy, realising that he’s missing him growing up. Simon suggests this is just fate and something we’re all inclined to do in life, as he says, “God makes his plan.”
He implies it’s something that happens to us all and is just one of the mysteries of life. Speaking about Slip Slidin’ Away after its release, Simon said he always felt it was a little too long, but left it alone because he wasn’t sure which verses to remove. He criticised his own song-writing for leaving the song “on a plateau”, rather than building it up. He felt it was too repetitive.
However, the fans didn’t agree and it remains one of their best-loved songs, perhaps because the theme is a universal one and something everyone can relate to.
During their long career, Simon and Garfunkel received 10 Grammy Awards. In 1990, they became inductees of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
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