Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel met in elementary school in Queens, New York when they were both cast members in Alice in Wonderland -- Simon as the White Rabbit, Garfunkel as the Cheshire Cat. In high school, they banded together to perform under the Tom and Jerry moniker.
Their first recording, "Hey, Schoolgirl," was for Big Records in 1957. The single sold 100,000 copies, climbing to number 59 on the Billboard charts. Their Everly Brothers-inspired hit even landed them on American Bandstand, alongside Jerry Lee Lewis performing “Great Balls of Fire.”
After parting ways to attend separate colleges, the two found each other once again amidst the burgeoning folk scene of New York's Greenwich Village. Simon had three songs that he shared with Garfunkel: "Sparrow," "Bleecker Street," and "He Was My Brother," the latter about their mutual friend Andrew Goodman, one of the three civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi in 1964.
Those three selections made the cut for their Columbia Records debut, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM. Not long after, the duo went their separate ways, with Simon heading across the pond to the UK to record and release The Paul Simon Songbook, and make the folk club circuit.
While he was away, radio stations back in the States started spinning “The Sound of Silence.” Their producer, Tom Wilson, grabbed the chance to beef up the track with electric guitars, bass, and drums to release it as an official single marking the birth of the folk rock genre. The song made it to number one on the charts.
Returning to the U.S., Simon reunited with Garfunkel and hit the studio to record more cuts in the same vein. Sounds of Silence was the result and it climbed up to number 21, while also boosting a re-release of Wednesday Morning up to number 30. A number of songs from Simon's Songbook album were also reworked for the duo, among them were “I Am a Rock” and “Kathy's Song.”
The hits kept coming with “Scarborough Fair” and “Homeward Bound.” And their next outing, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, refined their sound even further.
In 1967, the pair performed at the Monterey Pop Festival and contributed a number of compositions to the Mike Nichols' classic film The Graduate. An in-the-works tune about Mrs. Roosevelt and Joe DiMaggio was hastily outfitted to be about Mrs. Robinson and the rest is history. The film's soundtrack raced to the top of the charts.
Drafting off of The Graduate momentum, Bookends was released in 1968 with a full version of “Mrs. Robinson” and “A Hazy Shade of Winter” among its offerings. “Mrs. Robinson” nabbed a Grammy the following year, as did Simon for his score.
By 1969, Garfunkel's interests were leaning toward acting and that strained their musical relationship and added tension in the studio during the making of Bridge over Troubled Water. Released in 1970, the title track stayed at number one for six weeks. Other tracks, including “Cecilia” and “The Boxer,” also charted and the record was honored with six Grammy Awards in 1971.
Their Greatest Hits collection, released in 1972, has sold more than 14 million copies in the U.S. alone, making it the top-selling album by a duo. However, the two men had already embarked on separate journeys by that time.
Both Simon and Garfunkel went on to have solo careers in varying fields and to varying degrees of success. Several reunion performances have also occurred over the passing years. A 1983 attempt at a duo recording failed and became Simon's Hearts and Bones once he removed his partner's vocals. Estrangement ensued until their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1990.
In 1993, they did 21 sold out shows comprised of part duo material and part Simon solo work. Columbia Legacy made available a previously unreleased recording in 2002 entitled Live from New York City, 1967. The next year found the two performing “The Sound of Silence” to open the 2003 Grammy Awards where they were honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Making détente, Simon and Garfunkel embarked on the Old Friends tour with The Everly Brothers in 2003. They reprised the tour the following year including Europe in their itinerary.
In 2007, Columbia Legacy discovered more masters and released Live 1969 through Starbucks. The duo also made surprised appearances together at various special events in 2007 and 2009 before heading out for a tour of the Asia/Pacific region in the summer of 2009.