Top 10 Simon & Garfunkel Songs
Simon & Garfunkel couldn’t have come out of any other time but the ’60s. The duo started the decade as painfully earnest folk singers before evolving into one of the era’s most adventurous artists. Their final two albums — 1968’s ‘Bookends’ and 1970’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ — are as aurally exciting as any record that came out of popular music’s most fertile period. Then there are the songs themselves, penned by Paul Simon and sung by him and Art Garfunkel in a glorious mix of earthbound realism and angelic idealism. That timeless harmonic dichotomy runs through our list of the Top 10 Simon & Garfunkel Songs.
Simon’s prettiest song, and one of the most gorgeous songs ever written, was penned for his girlfriend whom he met in England while living there in the mid ’60s. It’s a love song, and a rather uncomplicated one, but Simon’s plaintive voice, the spare acoustic guitar and, most of all, the lovely melody make it one of the most endearing songs recorded by Simon, who appears without Garfunkel on the track.
Simon was messing around with world music long before ‘Graceland’ and “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.’ Two songs on ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ reflected his growing interest in sounds from other cultures: the Peruvian-influenced ‘El Condor Pasa (If I Could)’ and this one, a percussion-driven singalong based on Latin rhythms. Simon would explore global music more deeply throughout his solo career, but this handclap-fueled ditty is where it all began.
Simon originally wrote ‘Homeward Bound’ for his London-based girlfriend (the same one who checks in at No. 10 on our list of the Top 10 Simon & Garfunkel Songs), but over the years it took on more weighted significance, especially as the Vietnam War dragged on and soldiers, some of them in body bags, returned to the States. Either way, it’s a perfect blend of melody and harmony — one of the duo’s best performances.
‘My Little Town’
After releasing ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ in 1970, Simon and Garfunkel went their own ways. Five years later, Simon was working on a song for his old partner’s solo album that ended up a new Simon & Garfunkel single and their last Top 10 hit together. It’s one of their all-time best, a blistering attack on small-town values that discharges like a gunshot during the final minute.
‘The Only Living Boy in New York’
At the end of the ’60s, Garfunkel spent as much time on movie sets as he did in recording studios. Simon wrote ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’ for his MIA musical partner (whom he calls “Tom,” a reference to the duo’s late-’50s recording career as Tom & Jerry). It’s a wonderful song of longing, loneliness and even sadness. It’s a revealing trace of compassion in a relationship that hit more than its share of turbulence over the years.
Simon & Garfunkel’s second No. 1 first appeared in the 1967 movie ‘The Graduate,’ but it’s the single version — fleshed out with studio tricks and sterling production by the duo’s trusted producer Roy Halee — from a year later that remains one of their most popular songs. ‘Mrs. Robinson”s launching point is the film’s middle-age seductress, but the song is mostly a nostalgic look back on the past decade. It’s filled with regret, hope and affection for a more innocent time — something you can pretty much say about all of the tracks on our list of the Top 10 Simon & Garfunkel Songs.
Simon’s masterpiece about two people searching for the true meaning of America, recorded during a period when it looked like the U.S. indeed may have lost its way, almost reads like a short story. The verses don’t rhyme, there’s not really a chorus and the whole thing comes off like the narrator’s sad sigh of hopes and dreams. Simon was one of the ’60s’ most literary songwriters (and at times one of its most pretentious), and ‘America’ is his most majestic composition on this list of the Top 10 Simon & Garfunkel Songs.
One of Simon’s most poignant songs was first released as a single in April 1969, serving as a bridge between the ‘Bookends’ and ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ albums. It’s also one of Simon & Garfunkel’s most meticulously produced records, a cornucopia of sounds that includes acoustic guitar, harmonica and a piccolo trumpet solo. But the heart of ‘The Boxer’ is its folk-like, and metaphorical, tale of a fighter struggling in both his personal and professional lives.
‘The Sound of Silence’
‘The Sound of Silence’ was originally released on Simon & Garfunkel’s 1964 debut album, ‘Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.’ as a stripped-down acoustic folk number. But producer Tom Wilson (who also worked on Bob Dylan‘s ‘Highway 61 Revisited,’ as well as other ’60s classics) remixed the song, adding electric guitars and drums. That version became the duo’s first No. 1 and one of their greatest songs, a folk-rock milestone that paved the path for much of the rest of their career.
‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’
‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ is Simon’s ‘Yesterday': a song everybody knows, most people love and lots of artists (including Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley) have covered. It’s also Simon & Garfunkel’s biggest hit, a Grammy-hogging classic that stayed at No. 1 for six weeks in 1970. The song — the opening cut and anchor of the duo’s best album — is mostly a solo showcase for Garfunkel, whose often-lauded choirboy voice soars to biblical heights during the climax. Heavenly.