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Why Comparing Artists Can Be a Mistake

Marion Charatan

Posted on April 4, 2021 11:26

4 users

A writer said Paul Simon of the legendary Simon and Garfunkel will be a 'historical footnote' to Bob Dylan--right or wrong?!? Steven Van Zandt, a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, called that "profoundly inaccurate."

The great Paul Simon recently sold his prolific music catalog for a reported $400 million dollars to the Universal Music Group. For those not familiar with him (and I think most people are, young or old), Simon, 79, was half of Simon and Garfunkel. He wrote memorable songs like "The Sound of Silence," "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Mrs. Robinson," "The Boxer," "Scarborough Fair," "Still Crazy After All These Years," "You Can Call Me Al," and "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," to name a few.

"The Sound of Silence," originally titled "The Sounds of Silence," written over a period from 1963 to 1964, became the haunting theme music for the 1967 classic film The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman and Katherine Ross. In my opinion, it is one of the loveliest ballads ever written. It has been covered by multiple and diverse artists, like Peaches and Herb in 1971 and guitarist Milos later in 2019. The song spent 14 weeks on The Billboard number One chart, alternating the slot with The Beatles' "We Can Work it Out."

"Bridge over Troubled Water" was released in 1970. The tune stayed on Billboard's Top 100 chart for six weeks and has been covered by 50 artists, ranging from Aretha Franklin to Johnny Cash. When another musician chooses to sing a work written by a fellow artist, I would call that one of the highest compliments that can be given. Additionally, the song was honored with 6 Grammys in 1971 and ranked #48 on Rolling Stone magazine's top 50 songs of all time. 

Some might call Simon and Garfunkel old school, yet their music has held up for generations. The duo grew up three blocks from each other in the 1940s and 1950s, in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Kew Gardens, NY. They attended the same schools and formed a melodic duo. Eventually, after a series of challenging marriages and personal struggles, Simon and Garfunkel split up and went on to successful solo careers. But they reunited in 1981 for a free concert in NY's Central Park attended by 500,000 fans.  

Although Paul Simon wrote the majority of the musical folk-rock duo's songs, the success of Simon and Garfunkel may also be attributed to the perfect blending of their voices. The choirboy harmonies were tailor-made for their tenor ranges. 

After Paul Simon sold his library to Universal, an Op-Ed piece came out from writer Jeff Slate for NBC. I respectfully have to disagree with the writer, who stated that Simon and Garfunkel will be a historical footnote to Dylan. Don't get me wrong--I absolutely love Bob Dylan, who will always be 'Mr. Tambourine Man who is Blowing in the Wind' in my head. But to compare these artists is completely unnecessary because they firmly stand on their own merits. My prediction is that one hundred years from now, both Simon and Garfunkel will be remembered along with the extraordinary Bob Dylan. True talent stands the test of time.

Marion Charatan

Posted on April 4, 2021 11:26

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