In a career dating back to the 1950s, Paul Simon has established himself among the best and most popular songwriters of the rock era. Growing up in Queens, NY, Simon befriended schoolmate Art Garfunkel, who had an angelic tenor voice, and the two teamed up as Tom and Jerry, taking the names of the cartoon characters. In the winter of 1957-1958, they scored a chart hit with "Hey Schoolgirl"; both were 16 years old.
Simon continued to try to score hits in the late '50s and early '60s, reaching the charts briefly in 1962 in the group Tico and the Triumphs with "Motorcycle" and under the name Jerry Landis in 1963 with "The Lone Teen Ranger." He and Garfunkel teamed up again as a folk duo in Greenwich Village, signed to Columbia Records, and released Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. (October 1964). The album flopped initially, but Simon, who had been spending a lot of time in England, was picked up as a solo artist by CBS [UK] and recorded The Paul Simon Songbook, released only in Great Britain in the spring of 1965.
In the wake of the folk-rock trend prevalent that year, producer Tom Wilson took the acoustic track "The Sound of Silence" from the Wednesday Morning album, overdubbed electric guitar, bass, and drums, and released the result as a single in October 1965, a full year after the album's release. It took off and hit number one, establishing Simon & Garfunkel.
For the next five years, they were one of the most successful acts in pop music. Simon wrote the songs, and the two harmonized on a series of hit singles and albums. They split up in 1970, after the release of their most popular album, Bridge Over Troubled Water.
Simon returned to solo work with Paul Simon (January 1972), which could not hope to match the success of Bridge, but which did sell a million copies and featured the reggae-tinged Top Ten single "Mother and Child Reunion." There Goes Rhymin' Simon (May 1973) was another million-seller, containing the hits "Kodachrome" and "Loves Me Like a Rock." After a 1974 live album, Simon released Still Crazy After All These Years (October 1975), which topped the charts, won the Grammy for Album of the Year, and included the number-one hit "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."
Simon took his time following this success, though he did release a greatest hits album featuring a new hit, "Slip Slidin' Away," and contributed to a remake of "What a Wonderful World" with Garfunkel and James Taylor. Moving to Warner Bros. Records, he wrote and starred in the film One Trick Pony (August 1980), the soundtrack of which contained the Top Ten hit "Late in the Evening."
Another three years passed before Simon returned with Hearts and Bones (October 1983), which did not match his usual level of commercial success. Simon experimented with songwriting styles and became interested in South African music, resulting in Graceland (August 1986), which became his biggest-selling solo album and won him another Album of the Year Grammy. Four years later, he delivered The Rhythm of the Saints (October 1990), which did for Brazilian music what Graceland had done for South African music and was another multi-platinum seller. Simon played a free concert in Central Park in August 1991 (ten years after Simon & Garfunkel had done one) and released a live album from the show. In 1993, Warner Bros. released a box set retrospective on Simon's career, and he undertook a tour that featured Garfunkel on their old hits, as well as covering other aspects of his career. He spent the next several years writing a stage musical, The Capeman, and released his own version of its score as Songs From the Capeman (November 1997). The show, which starred Ruben Blades and Marc Anthony, opened on Broadway in early 1998 and was a quick failure. In 1999, Simon toured on a double bill with Bob Dylan. His next album, You're the One, was released in October 2000. It went gold and earned a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. William Ruhlmann