I have a friend who likes Paul Simon. Check that. “I LOVE Paul Simon!” she’ll exclaim whenever we talk about music.
Simon was the genius half of Simon and Garfunkel. He wrote all those great songs, helped arrange them, and sang half of them. And it was Paul, not Art, who went on to a prolific solo career.
But guess what? There are reasons to love Artie, too. In the double-feature film, Songs of America / The Harmony Game, Garfunkel’s valuable contributions, beyond his glistening soprano and gorgeous harmonies, are brought to surface. Especially in The Harmony Game, produced in 2010 with interviews of Simon, Garfunkel, invaluable engineer Roy Halee, and others, Artie shines. He came up with that beautiful instrumental bridge in “The Boxer.” When Simon was certain “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was finished, Garfunkel encouraged an additional verse, and, in the studio, Simon came up with “Sail on, silver bird…” Magic.
And it was when Garfunkel took a leave, to go and act in the film, Catch-22, in Mexico, that Simon was inspired to write “The Only Living Boy in New York.” “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright,” was also for Artie, who’d been an architecture major in college.
All of this tells us how, despite the numerous breakups, including one after their teenaged run as “Tom and Jerry,” and one right after the making of their greatest album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon and Garfunkel were bonded for life.
The making of Bridge is the focus of The Harmony Game. The doc repeats segments from Songs of America, a TV special produced by the actor, Charles Grodin, and aired on CBS in 1969. Despite the repetitive moments, the films offer one revelation after another, of the guys backstage and onstage, of their concerns that their songs address social concerns—war, hunger, inequality; of the musical process, whether it’s Simon’s composing or the addition of the supergroup of L.A. session players, “The Wrecking Crew,” featuring drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Joe Osborn, and pianist Larry Knechtel. They were also known as “The Hollywood Golden Trio.”
But they had nothing on the Queens Golden Duo. The five of them, along with Halee and other behind-the-scenesters, produced some of the finest music in pop history.
I love them all.