Watch Simon & Garfunkel Sing “The Sound of Silence” 45 Years After Its Release, and Just Get Hauntingly Better with Time

The leg­end of Simon & Gar­funkel is big­ger than either per­former, though only one of them remained a major star after their breakup, while the oth­er became… too often the butt of unkind jokes. At the pin­na­cle of their fame in 1970, Art Gar­funkel, the tall angel­ic singer with the gold­en halo of curls, walked away from the duo as their rela­tion­ship soured. Gar­funkel moved to Con­necti­cut and became a math teacher for a spell. “I would talk them through a math prob­lem,” he remem­bered in 2015, “and ask if any­one had any ques­tions and they would say: ‘What were the Bea­t­les like?’”

Paul Simon, Gar­funkel recalled of the acri­mo­nious split, “was get­ting on my nerves. The jokes had run dry.” Per­haps it’s for the best they quit when they were ahead since their friend­ship nev­er recov­ered. After their famous Cen­tral Park reunion con­cert in 1981, a planned tour fell apart when they stopped speak­ing to each oth­er. At their 1990 induc­tion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the duo played three songs and report­ed­ly left with­out a word exchanged between them. “Arthur and I agree about almost noth­ing,” Simon remarked. Their split has all the qual­i­ties of a ter­ri­ble divorce.

Luck­i­ly for their fans, the two have infre­quent­ly giv­en their part­ner­ship anoth­er shot, stag­ing tours in 1993 and 2004. And in 2009, Gar­funkel showed up for three songs dur­ing a Simon con­cert at New York’s Bea­con the­ater. This led to a tour of Asia and Aus­tralia and, as you can see up top, an appear­ance togeth­er at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th Anniver­sary Con­cert at Madi­son Square Gar­den, where they played one of their biggest hits—and arguably one of Simon’s great­est songs—“The Sound of Silence” (1964). If you didn’t already know that they can’t stand each other’s com­pa­ny, you’d hard­ly guess it from the video.

After Simon’s gen­tly plucked gui­tar intro, they exchange brief but gen­uine smiles, then launch into har­mo­ny, their voic­es blend­ing with all the haunt­ing beau­ty of their hey­day. In fact, it’s pos­si­ble that—despite the bit­ter­ness and wear of sev­er­al decades—they sound bet­ter than they ever did. Com­pare this per­for­mance to that below, a live Cana­di­an TV appear­ance from 1966. (Simon earnest­ly, and iron­i­cal­ly in hind­sight, intro­duces the song as a com­ment on strained com­mu­ni­ca­tion.) The ear­ly per­for­mance seems rushed and man­nered com­pared to their impas­sioned reunion in 2009.

It’s a tru­ly haunt­ing expe­ri­ence fit­ting a tru­ly haunt­ing song, and made all the more poignant by the fact that they may nev­er per­form togeth­er again. In 2010, what is like­ly their last reunion end­ed when Garfunkel’s voice failed him. Diag­nosed with a con­di­tion called “vocal pare­sis,” he’s spent the past few years regain­ing his singing abil­i­ties. But, while Simon has ruled out anoth­er reunion, Gar­funkel, for all his ran­cor and regret, holds out hope. “When we get togeth­er,” he told The Tele­graph in 2015, “it’s a delight to both of our ears. A lit­tle bub­ble comes over us and it seems effort­less. We blend. So as far as this half is con­cerned, I would say, ‘Why not, while we’re still alive?’” They may have made a very unhap­py cou­ple, but the mag­ic that brought them togeth­er clear­ly has­n’t suf­fered for it.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Paul Simon Feelin’-Very-Groovy Moment

Paul Simon, Then and Now: Cel­e­brat­ing His 70th Birth­day

Art Gar­funkel Lists 1195 Books He Read Over 45 Years, Plus His 157 Favorites (Many Free)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (4)
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    Ever since I heard it for the first time, when it first came out… I still like it as much as on that first encounter. Even more. It nev­er fails to touch me! The words, the music, their voic­es, both !Thanks to both for all that beau­ti­ful music.

  • Tracey says:

    Thank you!

  • Andrea says:

    Art Gar­funkel deserves respect, i think this arti­cle refers to him in a despec­tive way. He is a beau­ti­ful human being and has a great heart. He is 75 yrs old and is on tour since 2014. His life is more inter­est­ing than oth­er peo­ple life today( musi­cians, jour­nal­ist, politicians,etc…)

  • Norma Verleni says:

    I total­ly agree that Art Gar­funkel deserves more respect & cred­it for their suc­cess & world­wide fame.
    With­out his ethe­re­al voice I doubt that Paul would have made it on his own — he need­ed the har­mo­ny & that spe­cial blend that set them apart on those first 5 albums. Noth­ing Paul ever did solo com­pared to their work togeth­er. Paul turned his back on him when he lost his voice tem­porar­i­ly in 2010. Artie worked very hard on recov­er­ing that beau­ti­ful voice & had a suc­ces­sion solo career. But he was always open to a reunion with the kid he’s”rescued” when they were school­mates. I guess Paul con­ve­nient­ly for­got about that.

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