Readers' Poll: The 10 Greatest Simon and Garfunkel Songs - Rolling Stone
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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Greatest Simon and Garfunkel Songs

Your picks include ‘I Am a Rock,’ ‘America’ and ‘Mrs. Robinson’

Douglas R. Gilbert/Redferns

Four years after Simon and Garfunkel's 2010 summer tour was called off due to Art Garfunkel's vocal cord paresis, the tall singer has announced that he has healed and is hitting the road. There's no word whether Simon and Garfunkel plan on rebooking their cancelled shows, though, and Paul Simon is already spending his spring on the road with Sting.

On that note, we asked our readers to select their favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs. Here are the results. 


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9. ‘I Am a Rock’

When Simon and Garfunkel's 1964 debut album Wednesday Morning, 3 AM tanked, Paul Simon headed to England alone and began recording and gigging as a solo artist. "I Am a Rock" – the tale of an emotionally shattered man who hides away from the world – was first released on The Paul Simon Songbook in England in 1965.

Right around that time, folk rock was exploding in America. Columbia producer Tom Wilson took Simon and Garfunkel's acoustic "The Sound of Silence" and added in a band, the exact same day he produced "Like a Rolling Stone" for Bob Dylan. It became a big hit and Simon headed home from England to reunite with Garfunkel. They cut "I Am a Rock" for the second album, Sounds of Silence, and it hit Number Three on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the start of the band's incredible six-year run.

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8. ‘Scarborough Fair/Canticle’

Paul Simon first heard the traditional English ballad "Scarborough Fair" while gigging around London folk clubs in 1965. During the recording of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme in the summer of 1966, he created an innovative new arrangement of the tune which he mashed up with "Canticle," a reworking of his anti-war ballad "The Side of a Hill." The finished result was unlike anything else on the radio in 1966 and it instantly became one of their signature tunes. 

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7. ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’

Director Mike Nichols helped turn Simon and Garfunkel into superstars when he used their music in his 1967 film The Graduate – but just two years later, he inadvertently pulled them apart. The director cast the pair in his upcoming movie Catch-22, but he dropped Paul's part before filming began in Mexico. Needless to say, Simon was none too pleased with the situation. It meant that his singing partner would be down in Mexico for three months filming a movie while he was stuck in New York.

He poured his heartache into "The Only Living Boy in New York." Simon and Garfunkel recorded as Tom and Jerry in the 1950s, and in this song, he addresses his partner as Tom. Paul sang lead on the song, which was one of the highlights from Bridge Over Troubled Water, the duo's final album. 

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6. ‘Mrs. Robinson’

Mike Nichols was nearly finished with The Graduate when he told Simon and Garfunkel that he'd love to include just one more of their songs, even though the movie was already full of the duo's music. Art casually suggested they show him "Mrs. Robinson," causing Nichols to jump to his feet. "You have a song called 'Mrs. Robinson?'" he asked. "And you didn't tell me?"

Turns out, Paul Simon had written a tune called "Mrs. Roosevelt." It's about Eleanor Roosevelt and the passing of a more innocent era, thus the line, "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?" The lyrics have absolutely nothing to do with the movie, but they were happy to change the title to "Mrs. Robinson." They had little idea it would become a smash. 

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5. ‘Cecilia’

Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Paul's brother Eddie and their friend Stewey Scharf were sitting around a house on Blue Jay Way in Los Angeles, messing around with a tape recorder, when a song appeared almost out of thin air. Paul began playing his guitar and the others began creating a beat by banging on things around the room. They soon stumbled upon the "Cecilia" beat, and they perfected it later in the studio with their producer, Roy Halee.

They released it as their follow-up single to "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and it reached Number Four on the Hot 100. Oddly enough, they first created the song in the same house where George Harrison was staying when he wrote the Beatles song "Blue Jay Way."

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4. ‘America’

Paul Simon has written a lot of great lines over the past 50 years, but the beginning of the final verse of Simon and Garfunkel's 1968 classic "America" has struck a chord with countless people over the years: "'Kathy, I'm lost,' I said, though I knew she was sleeping/ 'I'm empty and aching and I don't know why.'" The song is about a road trip with Simon's girlfriend, Kathy Chitty, and it captured America's sense of restlessness and confusion during the year that saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, as well as the escalation of the war in Vietnam. It barely cracked the Hot 100 back in 1968, but it's become one of their most beloved songs. (Check out this incredible version from the Bridge School Benefit in 1993.)

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3. ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’

The first time that Art Garfunkel heard "Bridge Over Troubled Water," he told Paul Simon that he didn't want to sing it. "He couldn't hear it for himself," Simon told Rolling Stone in 1972. "He felt I should have done it. And many times, I think I'm sorry I didn't do it. Many times on a stage, though, when I'd be sitting off to the side and Larry Knechtel would be playing the piano and Artie would be singing 'Bridge,' people would stomp and cheer when it was over, and I would think, 'That's my song, man. Thank you very much. I wrote that song.'"

The song was one of the biggest hits of 1970, staying at the top of the Hot 100 for six weeks. It also won Grammys for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Art is probably quite glad Paul convinced him to do it. It remains his signature song and it always brings down the house at his solo shows. 

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2. ‘The Boxer’

There's a lot of myth and rumor surrounding "The Boxer." Many are convinced it's an attack on Bob Dylan, even believing that the "lie lie lie" refrain refers to the "lie" of Dylan changing his name. The theory goes on to state that the "whores on 7th Avenue" are Columbia Records.

There's not a shred of truth to this, and Dylan himself covered the song on his 1970 LP Self Portrait. In fact, it's simply about a young man who struggles after moving to New York, eventually comparing himself to a boxer who gets up and continues to fight despite getting repeatedly knocked down. It's a great lyric, but the most impressive thing about the song is the production. Simon, Garfunkel and producer Roy Halee spent over 100 hours on the track, going from studio to studio and even St. Paul's Chapel in New York City to get the proper echo effect. All the work paid off and it reached Number Seven on the charts. 

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1. ‘The Sound of Silence’

Three months after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, America was beginning to recover and the Beatles were taking the country by storm, but Paul Simon was still in shock. He'd been working on a new song for a couple of weeks and he went into his bathroom to fiddle around with the echo effect in there. The lines "Hello darkness my old friend/ I've come to talk to you again" came to him very quickly and the rest of the song fell into place, though Simon and Garfunkel didn't actually record the song for another 13 months. It was one of the best songs on their debut LP, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., but it didn't sell and the group essentially split. But in 1965, the Byrds scored a huge hit with "Mr. Tambourine Man" and folk rock songs began taking over the charts. Producer Tom Wilson added a band to "The Sound of Silence" without the group even knowing about it, and the song blew up on radio. The excited duo reunited and the rest is history. 

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