Happy 80th birthday to Paul Simon, one of the most successful and respected songwriters of the rock era. Simon was born and raised in New Jersey and grew up listening to Alan Freed’s radio shows which fed him a steady diet of doo-wop and R&B. At 11 he met Art Garfunkel and the pair bonded over a love of music, and they began performing together in junior high. As Tim & Jerry, the pair recorded one hit, Simon’s Hey Schoolgirl in 1957. After a few years working solo under the name Jerry Landis and performing with other groups, Simon reunited with Art Garfunkel, capitalizing on the folk wave sweeping New York City.
The pair were one of a few folk artists to survive the psychedelic era, with their pinnacle coming with 1970’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. Friction between the pair led to a hiatus, then a total breakup when Simon released his first solo album in 1972. Two hit singles emerged from the album which extended Simon’s sound to include reggae and latin music influences.
Simon’s three albums from the first half of the 70’s all reached the top 5. He took longer to release his next album, using the time to write music for the movie Shampoo and acting in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. His next full album came in 1980, the soundtrack for the movie in which he also starred, One-Trick Pony. The movie draws from his own experiences in the music industry. Neither the movie nor the album were as successful as expected, although Late in the Evening did reach the top 5 on the rock charts.
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel would reunite in 1981 for a concert in Central Park. The free show drew over 500,000 people and proceeds from the concert film and record benefited the park, which had fallen into disrepair. The pair followed this with a world tour, but their reunion album failed to materialize, with the material released as Paul Simon’s Hearts and Bones in 1983.