100 Greatest Artists

40

Simon and Garfunkel

Illustration by Dan Brown

By James Taylor

I remember when my older brother Alex and my youngest brother, Hugh, both brought home Simon and Garfunkel albums. The music stood by itself, quite apart from anything else around at the time. Simon and Garfunkel brought something new to music: They brought themselves. Through it all — whether they were together or not — they've remained a force in American music and culture. Their impact has been huge. To use a hackneyed phrase, they scored some of the most meaningful years of our lives. Think of how their songs worked in The Graduate — these were songs that spoke to a generation, in a motion picture that also spoke for a generation.

Paul Simon has just always been one of our best songwriters. Paul's breakthrough came at a time when there was so much in the air, and many of his songs were picked up as anthems. He creates an unusually rich and full world, and he has such a broad palette, from basic and elemental folk music, like "Scarborough Fair," to later songs with far greater sophistication and more worldly approaches on solo work, like "Something So Right" and "Still Crazy After All These Years." And Art Garfunkel is one of those great, rare voices. I would know it anywhere at the drop of a hat, in half a bar. Over the years, I've been able to work with Paul and Art — the first time was with Art on a song of mine called "A Junkie's Lament." Art inhabits the songs like Louis Armstrong did — you don't just get his version of a song, you get his take on it.

It is moving to see them sing together now after all these years. That kind of partnership is like a marriage, only more difficult and more public. You have two very strong, very willful individuals sharing this tight space. I was around Apple Records as the Beatles were disintegrating, and you realize that it's not an uncommon pattern. And perhaps because it wasn't something that came easy, it's all the more inspiring and reassuring to see that Paul and Art can still pull off such great reunions.

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