Why did Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel split up?

During the 1960s, one of the most recognizable acts was Simon & Garfunkel. Paul Simon, the songwriter, and Art Garfunkel, the singer, together led the folk-rock movement that dominated the decade. They were one of the best-selling bands of the era because of their beautifully written compositions, and they had number-one successes all over the world with classics like “The Sound of Silence,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “The Boxer,” and their swan song, “Bridge over Troubled Water.”

1953 saw the two of them meet in Queens, New York, at an elementary school. Here they began what would turn out to be a very successful partnership and started producing content. In keeping with the era and their youth, they were initially referred to as Tom & Jerry. It would appear that this was not inspired by the cartoon, though. Garfunkel chose the name Tom Graph to symbolize his passion for mathematics, while Simon adopted the last name of a girl he had dated to become Simon Jerry Landis.

The pair would soon find success, and at the age of 15, Sid Prosen signed them to the indie label Big Records. He had heard them in the Sanders Recording Studio in Manhattan, working on one of their first songs, “Hey Schoolgirl.” It’s interesting to note that this recording only costs $25, or about $244.00 in today’s currency due to inflation.

The 1957 film “Hey Schoolgirl” was released. Prosen employed the payola system and bought DJ Alan Freed $200 to play the single on his nightly radio show, quickly making it a standard. This is another example of how the times and the industry have changed. The song was heavily played during primetime on major stations, eventually selling over 100,000 copies and peaking at number 49 on the Billboard charts. Prosen’s persistent efforts to promote the duo led to their popularity, which earned them a featured slot on Dick Clark’s renowned American Bandstand alongside Jerry Lee Lewis, dubbed the “Great Balls of Fire.”

The youthful Simon and Garfunkel parted with about $4,000, or about $38,000 in modern currency. Even though it might seem like a lot, each of them only received two percent of the royalties; the remaining portion went to the opaque Prosen. After that, they put out two more singles on Big Records, “That’s My Story” and “Our Song,” neither of which was a hit.

The two went on to graduate from high school in 1958 and decided to stay in school as a backup plan in case their music career didn’t work out. While Garfunkel initially studied architecture at Columbia College, and Columbia University, he later changed his focus to art history. Simon studied English at Queens College, City University of New York. Simon went by the name “True Taylor” and recorded a solo song titled “True or False” while still under contract with Big Records as a pair. As it happened, Garfunkel took this personally and felt betrayed. This would mark the beginning of the emotional strain that would eventually lead to the duo’s breakup in 1970. This issue would come up from time to time during their relationship. Garfunkel would eventually come to feel that Simon had all the power because, to Simon, he was just a singer.

The group would produce individual music in the ensuing years until getting back together in late 1963 as “Kane & Garr.” They were at an open mic night at a Greenwich venue called Gerde’s Folk City. The three new songs they performed were “Sparrow,” “He Was My Brother,” and “The Sound of Silence.” Tom Wilson of Columbia Records took notice of this. Wilson would go on to design Bob Dylan’s shift from folk to rock & roll.

He wanted a new British act called the Pilgrims to record “He Was My Brother” as Columbia’s “star producer.” But Simon persuaded him otherwise, and Wilson consented to allow the pair to try out in the studio. After they sang “The Sound of Silence,” Columbia signed them as Simon & Garfunkel at Wilson’s request.

Wilson produced the pair’s debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., which was released in October 1964. Normally, by now we would say that the rest was history, but not quite. They broke up once more as a result of the album’s dismal sales. In England, Simon started a solo career and made friends with folk icons like Sandy Denny and Bert Jansch.

The band’s star would suddenly begin to ascend to heights they could never have dreamed of at the age of fifteen. A new rendition of “The Sound of Silence” featuring electric guitar and drums was overdub, and it quickly shot to the top of the US charts. Unable to overlook this meal ticket, the pair got back together and went on a college tour and album release in 1966, Sounds of Silence.

The pair regained creative control with the band’s third album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme, released in 1966. At that point, they would firmly establish their place in the annals of popular culture. They were introduced to a degree of public recognition beyond their previous experience when their music was included in the beloved romantic comedy The Graduate. The classic number-one single “Mrs. Robinson,” which has come to be associated with The Graduate, was featured on their 1968 follow-up album, Bookends, which again peaked at the top of the charts.

Bridge over Troubled Water, their masterpiece and last studio album were released in 1970. It turned into one of the best-selling albums worldwide as well as their best-selling release. To many’s surprise, the pair would eventually break up after this.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Simon went on to have a very successful solo career that included critical and financial success and culminated in the 1986 album Graceland. Garfunkel intended to work as a solo artist as well. Along with releasing solo hits like “All I Know,” he briefly tried his hand at acting. reuniting with Mike Nichols, the director of The Graduate, but this time in front of the camera for the movies Catch-22 and Carnal Knowledge. Additionally, he was in Nicholas Roeg’s Bad Timing.

Naturally, the pair have come together multiple times to perform live. The most famous example was the Central Park concert in 1981, which had one of the highest concert attendance in history with over 500,000 attendees. In addition, the fact that they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and have received ten Grammy Awards is evidence of their legacy. All of this begs the question that remains, though. Why did Simon & Garfunkel decide to end their relationship for good?

It seems that a toxic rivalry ultimately split the pair. Several key factors contributed to this. Mort Lewis, the band’s manager, became concerned about their growing rivalry, once explaining, “They both envied the other’s place in the team,” he said. “Paul often thought the audience saw Artie as the star because he was the featured singer, and some people probably thought Artie even wrote the songs. But Artie knew Paul wrote the songs and thus controlled the future of the pair. I don’t think he ever got over what happened with Tom & Jerry.”

Fast forward to 2017, and Garfunkel confirmed Mort’s fears in his memoir Is It All But Luminous: Notes from an Underground Man. He referenced Paul’s betrayal with Big Records: “I concluded in an eighth of a second, and the friendship was shattered for life… I never forget, and I never really forgive,” he said, adding the subtle dig, “Paul won the writer’s royalties. I got the girls.”

Simon also struggled with his mental health and self-doubt. He had been in and out of therapy for many years. In 1984, he explained, “Most people look at me and wonder, ‘How could that guy be depressed?’ And I now feel that people were seeing a more accurate picture of me than I was. I eventually realized, ‘Jesus, all I’ve been looking at is this thin slice of pie that has got the bad news in it and I’m disregarding the rest of the picture.’”

When asked what the “bad news” was, he said, “Being short. Not having a voice that you want. Not looking the way you want to look. Having a bad relationship. Some of that is real. And if you start to roll it together, that’s what you focus on.”

Garfunkel seemed aware of his partner’s insecurities and, given his feelings about the historic “betrayal,” there seems to have been a vindictive element that sometimes surfaced. In the 2017 biography Paul Simon: The Life, Simon told Robert Hilman, “I remember during a photo session Artie said, ‘No matter what happens, I’ll always be taller than you.’ Did that hurt? I guess it hurt enough for me to remember 60 years later.”

There were talks of a new album after the triumphant Central Park show, but these quickly dissipated. Simon explained, “We had grown apart,” referring to their relationship. He then added, “We didn’t think the same musically. We’d had 11 years of making our records, where you didn’t have to agree on it. You just did what you wanted.”

Additionally, the films of Mike Nichols seem to have played a significant role in the duo never releasing material after Bridge Over Troubled Water in 1970. After the massive success of The Graduate, Nichols cast Garfunkel in his next film, the 1970 project Catch-22. However, it was not just Garfunkel who was cast; Simon was too.

Paul’s part was eventually cut, and adding insult to injury, it seemed as if Garfunkel was getting his own back for “the betrayal.” He had agreed to make Nichols’s next film, Carnal Knowledge. This meant that Garfunkel would be away on set for six months, leaving the depressed Simon to write the pair’s new material in New York on his own.

“He knew how I’d feel, but he did it anyway,” Simon said in his biography. “Mike told Artie he was going to be a big movie star, and Artie couldn’t say no,” he added. “He later told me he didn’t see why it was such a big deal to me – he would make the movie for six months, and I could write the songs for the next album. Then we could get together and record them.”

“I thought, ‘F*** you, I’m not going to do that.’ And the truth is, I think if Artie had become a big movie star he would have left. Instead of just being the guy who sang Paul Simon songs, he could be Art Garfunkel, a big star all by himself… This made me think about how I could still be the guy who wrote songs and sing them. I didn’t need Artie.”

In July 1970, months after the release of their final album *Bridge Over Troubled Water*, the duo’s writing career came to a halt in a car park after a show. The pair shook hands and went their separate ways. Simon recalled, “With Artie, there was no reason to talk about it,” he said. “When he agreed to make Carnal Knowledge, something was broken between us… I just wanted to move on. We were finished.”

After the record-breaking reunion show, another decade passed, and then the pair teamed up in 1993 for a run of New York shows. However, a critic’s opinion dredged up all the historical animosity between the two. He alleged, “Mr. Garfunkel turned out to be just one of a large supporting cast of Mr. Simon’s collaborators and fellow singers.”

In the aftermath of the newspaper review, Simon’s business manager, Joseph Rascoff, claimed, “I genuinely believed that if there had been a knife on the table, one of them would have used it.”

Rascoff’s quote sums up the nature of Simon & Garfunkel’s long and well-documented relationship. The immovable force versus the unstoppable object dichotomy springs to mind. There have been other occasions in more recent times where the duo was scheduled to reunite. In 2010, they were scheduled to tour North America; however, it was cut short as Simon and the public quickly noted that Garfunkel’s voice was not what it used to be. Garfunkel’s perceived lack of honesty infuriated Simon for the final time. This was the final nail in the coffin, a coffin that had been slowly building itself since the late ’50s: “He let us all down. I was tired of all the drama,” Simon told biographer Robert Hilman. “I didn’t feel I could trust him anymore.”

Garfunkel had his final say in 2018, telling the Telegraph that he thought Simon was an “idiot” to break up the band.

Whichever way you look at it, the turbulent history of Simon & Garfunkel is as opaque as their old manager, Sid Posen. Engulfed in opinions, self-doubt, and rancor, it’s no surprise the duo would not write together after 1970. And it’s certainly no surprise that every reunion between the two has ended in resentment and vitriol.

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