Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed several days ago, I came upon a link, shared by a friend, to Simon & Garfunkel singing “The Sound of Silence”. This one is a personal favorite (as are many of Simon & Garfunkel’s songs) but until I dug around a little on the internet, I hadn’t really registered how much these two dislike each other personally. For Real. Grudge City.
It’s interesting to watch these live performances (which are about forty-five years apart in time) one right after the other.
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s rocky relationship hit a low point in the mid -1980s when Simon erased Garfunkel’s vocals from a planned reunion disc and released it as a solo set. Art took the high road at their induction ceremony into the Hall of Fame in 1990. “I want to thank most of all the person who has most enriched my life by putting these great songs through me,” he said. “My friend Paul here.” With a smirk on his face, Paul walked up to the podium. “Arthur and I agree about almost nothing,” he said. “But it’s true, I have enriched his life quite a bit, now that I think about it.” Eleven years later Paul was inducted as a solo artist. “I want to thank Art Garfunkel and say that I regret the ending of our friendship, and I hope that some day before we die we will make peace with each other,” he said, then added, pausing for comedic effect, “No rush.”
The fact is, is, like, we did do two big reunions, and we’re done. There’s nothing really much to say. You know, the music essentially stopped in 1970.
And, you know, I mean, quite honestly, we don’t get along. So it’s not like it’s fun. If it was fun, I’d say, OK, sometimes we’ll go out and sing old songs in harmony. That’s cool. But when it’s not fun, you know, and you’re going to be in a tense situation, well, then I have a lot of musical areas that I like to play in. So that’ll never happen again. That’s that…
There’s darkness in my personality, no question about it. And, you know – but I really try to keep that out of the music. I’d rather take the dark subject and touch on it and then say something funny or, you know, back away from it.
When you really get into tender areas in people’s lives, you don’t have to, you know, put a stick in it. You just – if you just touch it gently, it hurts enough. And then you move away and – just to indicate that you have some compassion for how tough it is for just about everybody to make it through this life.
And yet – this interview with Art Garfunkel:
When we get together, with his guitar, 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?’ …
But I’ve been in that same place for decades. This is where I was in 1971.”
I’ll be honest, I love their music, but it truly matters very little to me if Simon and Garfunkel decide to sing together again. That’s their deal.
My point is that when you listen to them as a unit, something happens that is akin to magic. They’re both gifted as individuals, but something…more happens when they sing together.
So, I think this phenomenon of “more together than separately” is something to keep in mind this week of all weeks, as our nation transfers the Oval Office occupant once again. Because now more than ever, it’s important to remember that the face of the United States of America isn’t one man. It’s every man, woman and child, and more than 200 years ago it was designed to be an entity—a homeland—that is greater than the sum of its parts.
We Americans, we often don’t agree, but we can compromise. We don’t always love or even like each other, but the overwhelming majority of us love this country. America is a place like no other in the world, and even with all its faults (and there are many) it’s worth keeping, worth sacrificing for, worth caring for – with our minds, our backs, our energy, our money. Because together—much like those two boys from Queens—all of us who make up this United States of America are something more.
We’re something akin to magic.