Paul Simon – the critically acclaimed hitmaker, the sophisticated composer, the folk-rock poet who gave voice to the hopes and anxieties of a generation – seemed to enter the world stage fully formed with the release of Simon and Garfunkel’s debut single, “The Sound of Silence,” in the fall of 1965. And that was OK with him. Few knew of his secret past as a one-time teenage pop star in the late Fifties alongside his schoolmate Art Garfunkel, when the two were known as Tom and Jerry. For years after, he toiled in relative obscurity, releasing a string of derivative but catchy songs under a whole Rolodex of impractical stage names.
Simon eventually started recording music under his own name, and when stardom followed, he became increasingly embarrassed by these early songs, viewing them as the audio equivalent of compromising baby photos that could surface at any moment and torpedo his new reputation as a mature songwriter. He even went to court in 1967 to successfully block their release.
Though the sensation is understandable, the songs are nothing to be ashamed of. Some may be corny, but the best show flashes of Simon’s future brilliance. His feelings toward these primitive efforts appear to have softened over the years, and he even performed several in recent concerts as an affectionate tribute to his past.
In honor of Simon’s 75th birthday, we take a look at 10 early musical efforts that provide a fascinating insight into his creative development.