Biographies & Memoirs


Eighty miles north of Paul McCartney’s farm in Argyllshire, Scotland, Art Garfunkel was anxious, and at least part of it had to do with McCartney. As soon as Bridge Over Troubled Water was out of their hands and in stores, Garfunkel, like Simon, was gone. Simon ventured into teaching, and Garfunkel acted as if he were a student on summer break. After taking a freighter to Tangier, he made his way to Gibraltar, then hitchhiked to London. From there, he traveled with his girlfriend, Linda Grossman, to Scotland, renting a hundred-year-old estate outside Oban, a resort town in Argyllshire in the country’s northwest—far from the music business, even farther from his partner. “American Star’s Argyll Holiday,” announced a headline in the Oban Times, complete with a photo of Garfunkel and Grossman posing with sheep.

As always, he walked. Whether on vacation or on tour with Simon, Garfunkel was known for taking long, meandering hikes by himself that allowed him to think up a new harmony part for a song or stop into gas stations and start up conversations with strangers. Given his curious, knowledge-hungry brain, the walks were relaxing—if not always for those who worked for him. Just before a Simon and Garfunkel concert in Boston in 1968, he decided to hitchhike rather than fly. Worried that Garfunkel might miss the show, their manager, Mort Lewis, attempted to talk him out of it. Garfunkel held firm and was eventually picked up by a couple who told the frizzy-haired guy in the backseat that he looked just like that singer Art Garfunkel—and then wouldn’t believe him when he said he was (not even when he pulled out a driver’s license to prove it).

Another time, Simon and Lewis, in a limo on the way to a show, passed Garfunkel on a highway, and Lewis stuck his thumb on his nose and twirled his fingers, the silly “screw you” gesture common to anyone who’d grown up with the Little Rascals; Simon could only laugh along.

Walking also afforded Garfunkel the time to mull things over, and few mulled the way Garfunkel did. In Scotland, strolling past homes encased by stone walls and surrounded by velvet-green hills, he’d much to ponder. After the nonstop work of the previous year, he needed a break from show business and his partner. He’d also heard the new Beatles song, “Let It Be.” With its piano-centered arrangement and reassuringhug quality, it was reminiscent of the other kindly ballad dominating the charts, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Garfunkel was concerned that the Beatles’ new release would deflect attention from his own signature song. Back in the States, Simon himself noticed the similarities. “The first time I heard ‘Let It Be,’ I couldn’t believe that he [McCartney] did that,” he told Rolling Stone that spring. “They are very similar songs, certainly in instrumentation.... They’re sort of both hopeful songs and resting peaceful songs.” Simon heard that McCartney had first offered “Let It Be” to Aretha Franklin—a plan Simon also had in mind for “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

As many had already observed, Garfunkel’s walks were merely one indication of how offbeat Simon’s collaborator could be. As a child, he’d been methodical, thoughtful, and logical. Simon would always recall the time he encountered his friend at a Queens candy store, rattling different boxes of candy to determine which had the most pieces inside (the louder the rattle, the fewer the goodies). “Reading and teaching are Art’s twin avocations,” read an early Columbia press bio of Simon and Garfunkel, as if singing weren’t his principal passion in life. In the Songs of Americatelevision special, he’d taken that comment one step further: “I can’t see myself doing this five years from now ... this entertaining, there’s nothing new about it.” In conversation, he would laugh at things others wouldn’t think were funny. He loved making lists of things to do. He would stop into record stores and, posing as a customer, ask if a new Simon and Garfunkel album had arrived, even when one was still in the works.

The previous March 1969, he and Lewis were standing on the corner of Madison Avenue and 55th Street when an attractive brunette walked by. The girl—Grossman, the twenty-three-year-old daughter of a Nashville doctor and a recent graduate of architecture school—recognized Garfunkel immediately; a Simon and Garfunkel fan, she’d attended one of their concerts. As she walked by, she heard Garfunkel remark, “Will you marry me?”

Unnerved and unsure how to respond, Grossman crossed the street and went into a deli. To her surprise, Garfunkel followed her inside and apologized for his comment. To make amends, he invited her to a recording studio that evening. Taking him up on his offer, she soon found herself in a Columbia studio watching the duo work on material for their new album. Simon didn’t know what to make of her unexpected presence, but he was friendly and accommodating.

During the filming of Catch-22, Mike Nichols noticed how peculiar Garfunkel could be. A scene in a mess hall, featuring a visit by a clueless general played by Orson Welles, called for Garfunkel and his costars, including Alan Arkin and Bob Balaban, to leer and laugh as a female aide accidentally flashed a thigh. In take after take, each of the actors dredged up the required guffaws—except Garfunkel, who remained unresponsive. “He just couldn’t get cheerful,” Nichols would later recall.

In the end, Garfunkel’s concerns about “Let It Be” overtaking “Bridge Over Troubled Water” were for naught. In the U.K., “Let It Be” only reached number 2, held back from reaching the top slot by the Simon and Garfunkel single. Even against the greatest culture force of the past decade, Simon and Garfunkel’s place was secure.


When Garfunkel heard about Simon’s new girlfriend, he was far from pleased. “Are you crazy?” he was overheard telling his partner. “Stay away from that Peggy Lewis.” But by the spring, it was too late: Simon was already building a new and separate life of his own, and with a new companion.

Although Garfunkel tended to hole up in hotels when in New York, Simon was now living on the Upper East Side at 200 East End Avenue, across the street from the Gracie Mansion estate where New York’s mayors, like the then-current one, John Lindsay, lived. Simon was a wealthy man—he paid $350,000 in income tax in 1968—and had the posh uptown home to prove it: a duplex apartment in a postwar building with views of the East River and his native Queens.

Four years earlier, when they were considering hiring Lewis as their manager, Simon and Garfunkel had met Lewis at his apartment for a meeting. There, Lewis introduced them to his wife, a pale, delicate-looking, blue-eyed beauty from Nashville fifteen years Lewis’ junior. For Simon, it was hard to know what was more shocking: Peggy Ann Harper’s relative youth or the fact that she was still in curlers and a robe. Born in Newport, a small town in Tennessee hill country, Harper was a child of divorce; her father, a housepainter, broke up with his wife when Peggy (born Margaret) was twelve. Since the family had to live on welfare, Harper was able to enroll in Berea College, a tuition-free school for poor students from the area.

Leaving school before graduation and unsure of a direction, Harper wound up waitressing in New York, then Atlantic City. There, she met Lewis, who was managing the Brothers Four, a commercial folk group that tapped into the Kingston Trio-fueled boom of the early ’60s. Harper was dating one of its members, but soon, she and Lewis hooked up, marrying in 1965. Harper tended to keep to herself, which conflicted with Lewis’ need to schmooze music business types; more often than not, she’d opt out of nights out with people in her husband’s line of work. Around the time she first met Simon and Garfunkel, she and Lewis had had a trial separation, then divorced soon after. When Harper moved by herself to the Upper East Side, Lewis didn’t understand why she’d chosen to live in such a faraway part of the city—until he realized his ex-wife was now living close to Simon.

Lewis had no idea Simon was even interested in Peggy, but he didn’t know the whole story. After her divorce, Harper spent time in London; by coincidence, Simon, who had a girlfriend there, was also in town and wound up spending intimate time with his manager’s estranged wife. Soon enough, Harper, two years older than Simon, was sharing his East End Avenue home with him. In Songs of America, she made a rare public appearance, walking through a field with both men. But even then, her need for privacy came through: She was seen from the back, and only fleetingly.

Garfunkel’s apprehension about Harper and Simon hooking up was largely for business reasons: He was rightly concerned they’d lose their manager in the process. As it turned out, Lewis wasn’t terribly troubled by the relationship. The one person who truly had a right to be concerned was Garfunkel, especially when Simon and Harper announced they were planning to marry. Simon was so devoted to his art—continually obsessing over song lyrics and chord changes—that chances were he only had room in his life for one full-time partner. The remarkable coincidence that both New Yorkers were in relationships with women from Tennessee was small comfort.

In September 1969, Simon purchased another home, a Dutch farmhouse outside New Hope, Pennsylvania, for $200,000. The seven-room, three-floor house, nestled inside seventy acres of Bucks County real estate, felt several worlds removed from the claustrophobic intensity of Manhattan. He and Harper began spending weekends there, Harper starting a vegetable garden for their new health-food regime.

As Harper had already learned, Simon could be difficult to read. It was hard to know how he felt at any given time, and he could be moody. Whether in conversation or in interviews, he would quietly chew over a question for many minutes before delivering a carefully thought-out, precisely articulated response. (In a sign of how many qualities they shared, Garfunkel could be the same way.) He knew all too well he was beginning to lose his hair and was pained by it; Garfunkel told one friend that Simon was so sensitive that touching his head was out of the question.

In his new country home, Simon had the time and space to dwell on it all, with no one but Harper as company. He could listen to his soul and gospel records, his Schoenberg, Bach, and Bartók works, and try to determine what came next. Garfunkel, the Greenwich Village folk clubs, and the days of hustling around the Brill Building felt like ghosts from the past.


On Tuesdays, Simon returned to his weekly, early-evening commute down to the New York University building in the East Village. Teaching the songwriting course had been his idea from the start. “I wanted to do it for a while,” he told Rolling Stone. “I like talking about songwriting.” Besides, he added, “Nobody teaches anything about popular music. You have to learn it on the street.” With that in mind, he’d reached out to School of the Arts dean David Oppenheim, a former Columbia Records classical-division head who’d worked on Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution, a 1967 CBS TV special among the first to take modern rock seriously.

Each week, Simon arrived by himself. With his baseball caps and jeans, fans hunting him down probably wouldn’t have recognized him anyway. Yet even in such an informal setting, Simon brought to the class with the same scrutinizing seriousness which he approached his music. The dozen students—who included the Roche sisters but not Ron Maxwell or Joe Turrin, the fledgling theatrical composers from the audition period who were deemed too advanced—would sing or play a new song, and Simon wouldn’t hesitate to let them know if it was up to muster or far below it. He told one—Melissa Manchester, an eighteen-year-old New Yorker who’d attended the High School for Performing Arts and was already an adept pianist—that she’d been absorbing too many Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell albums. During her audition, Simon passed along one of the bits of career advice he occasionally doled out in class: “Say what you have to say as simply as possible,” he told her, “and then leave before they have a chance to figure you out.”

Simon might not have been adept at reading sheet music, and at times he looked nervous, but his technical skill was apparent. He taught them about the circle of fifths—a circular diagram that lays out the major and minor keys in music and the relationships between different chords—and explained that the students’ songs would be more commercial if they devised harmonies in thirds, rather than fourths and fifths, citing the Everly Brothers as an example. Those in the class who had no idea that Simon and Garfunkel were once Tom and Jerry were caught off guard. “To me, Simon and Garfunkel were a break from something like the Everly Brothers or something very pop,” recalled Terre Roche. “So it was a surprise that he was working in a very commercial pop vein. To see that those were his roots was an eye-opener.”

Simon also invited a few select music-industry friends to address the class: classical violinist Isaac Stern and Al Kooper, the former Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears singer and keyboardist and noted session man (that was his organ churning away on Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”). Simon and Kooper had known each other as teenagers in Queens, sometimes sharing a stage at swanky society gigs, where they’d strum standards like “Stardust” before Simon would stand up and sing a modern rock and roll song. Simon told the class the occasional backstage tale, like the time he visited Bob Dylan’s home, saw crumpled pieces of paper strewn around—each containing fragments of lyrics—and stuffed as many as possible in his pockets. To the astonishment of the students, he sometimes brought stray musical ideas for new songs and played them, often asking their reaction, as if he himself were searching for his way.

Simon’s singing partner was never one of the guests, and Simon rarely mentioned him. Few in the class thought anything of it. To students like Roche, who could still remember the exact moment in her New Jersey bedroom when she first heard “The Sound of Silence,” Simon and Garfunkel were such a part of the cultural fabric that the idea they wouldn’t exist was inconceivable. The only hint of anything unusual came one evening when Simon paused to talk about how hard it was to write a follow-up to a hit. Once you have one, he told them, everyone expected another, and the pressure was enormous. “To me, he was on top of the world,” Terre Roche remembered. “The idea that anything he did was problematic was fascinating to me.”

Simon never alluded to one specific incident that year: a lawsuit over the copyright of “El Condor Pasa.” Before recording the song, Simon had been told it was a traditional South American melody, when in fact it wasn’t: “El Condor Pasa” had been written by Peruvian songwriter Daniel Alomia Robles almost forty years before. Robles died in 1942, but his son sued over the credit. After they realized the mistake, Simon and his lawyer Michael Tannen settled, with no hard feelings on either side. Yet the suit was one more distasteful reminder to Simon of what had gone into the creation of one of the year’s biggest-selling albums.


To those at Mission Control or any of the few watching the live feed from home, the words were almost inaudible. “I’m afraid this is going to be the last moon mission for a long time,” Jim Lovell glumly reported to one of his capsule mates. Lovell knew of what he spoke: At that moment, he and his two crew members in Apollo 13 were adrift in space, two hundred thousand miles above earth.

The space program had emerged at the same time as Simon and Garfunkel, in the late ’50s; like them, it had been pushed into orbit a few years later. In some strange way, the two entities were connected. Even John Kennedy’s vision of outer space—“There is no strife, no prejudice, no hate,” he told a Rice University audience the following year—seemed in sync with the emerging civil rights era (and could have been an early Simon lyric).

But what exactly was happening in the country and beyond during the first half of the year? It wasn’t merely the bombs being detonated, or the fears of a looming recession, or the way a postal strike crippled the Northeast when almost a quarter of the country’s postal workers left their jobs to protest low wages. Everything seemed to be taking an unexpected, unwelcome left turn compared to a few short years earlier. Unexpectedly, the most obvious example of collapse was the news that the Odyssey command module and its connected LEM module were stranded in darkness.

The space program hadn’t been remotely glitch free, as anyone who recalled Apollo 1 in 1967—the explosion on the launch pad, the three astronauts in the capsule dead from suffocation—knew all too well. But by decade’s end, Kennedy’s call to the nation to put a man on the moon had become a reality. Barely a year before, in July 1969, Apollo 11 had actually landed there; four months later, Apollo 12 set down near the Ocean of Storms. A month after, an adventure film called Marooned—about three astronauts stranded in space when their electrical power dies out—arrived, but it felt more like over-the-top science fiction than something that could actually transpire. By the time Apollo 13 set out, on Friday, April 11, 1970, the country was so blasé about space launches that not all the networks carried it.

The launch had gone according to plan, but two days in—April 13, of all days—an oxygen tank overheated and exploded, draining the power from the main capsule. Since the mission hadn’t yet reached the moon, the plot of Marooned was played out in real time on live television. For three days, engineers in Houston struggled to find a way to bring back the astronauts and some part of their ship, and eventually did: In what amounted to a feat of engineering genius, NASA used the moon’s gravity to rocket the ship back to earth, and on April 17, the Odyssey nosedived into the Pacific.

Although its mission was aborted and it never landed on the moon, Apollo 13 was dubbed a “successful failure,” a triumph of man’s ingenuity over possible disaster. But the happy ending didn’t extend to the program itself. NASA would continue with its remaining planned missions for two more years, but the seeds of its decline had been planted with the mishap of Apollo 13. By year’s end, eighty-four thousand jobs in the aerospace industry would be eliminated. California alone lost out on almost one billion dollars in NASA contracts. The Kennedy dream had been blown out.


“As soon as I figure out I have nothing more to tell you, I’ll stop,” Simon bluntly informed his students the first night of class. As spring wound down, he accorded them one more inside peek at his business: choosing what he thought was the best student song and taking the entire class to an uptown studio, where it was recorded with some of the city’s bestknown studio musicians. With that, the class ended, and Simon returned to his other obligation. Four months after the release of Bridge Over Troubled Water, the time had finally arrived to promote it with a full-on Simon and Garfunkel tour.

The album had been doing fine without much promotion beyond the solo interview Simon had given to Rolling Stone while Garfunkel was abroad. On April 2, Bridge Over Troubled Water surpassed the two million sales mark. For ten straight weeks it was the biggest-selling album in the country, fending off challengers like Déjà vu and Hey Jude. “Cecilia,” the follow-up single to the title song, began its own ascent, its rhythms a cathartic left turn from the near-religious solemnity of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Simon was in no major rush to head back to the road. Although he generally appeared affable and easygoing onstage, flashing a whimsical smile between songs, part of him dreaded the thought of live performance. In cabs or limos on the way to venues, he’d inevitably start to get anxious, knots forming in his stomach. He was already visiting a therapist—actor Elliott Gould’s—twice a week. (He’d met Gould the year before at a Knicks game in New York, by way of their mutual friend Dustin Hoffman.) Although he was only twenty-eight, Simon told Lewis and others he was tired of touring and the dreary regimen of hotels, airports, and inadequate food. “Keep the Customer Satisfied,” on Bridge Over Troubled Water, jovially spoke of his relief to be home—horns never blasted louder on a Simon and Garfunkel record than they did on that song—but offstage, Simon was more far disgruntled.

The thought of spending time with Garfunkel didn’t particularly appeal to him either. After fifteen years of friendship, little things about his partner had begun to irk him. Simon wasn’t short on eccentricities himself. To write songs, he would wait for his nails to grow a particular length so he could fingerpick the strings just right. In the studio, he could be quietly competitive: If Larry Knechtel, a skilled bass and guitar player as well as keyboardist, picked up a guitar and began playing a riff more complicated than Simon could pull off, Simon would shoot a disapproving look.

To make the situation as palatable as possible for both men, the Simon and Garfunkel spring and summer tour would barely qualify as a tour at all. Launching April 25, it would amount to a mere five European shows—one each in London, Copenhagen, Paris, and Amsterdam before one more in London—over less than two weeks. After two months off, they would then play two concerts in America, both at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in July. This time, there would be no band, just the two of them, with Grossman and Harper along for company. (In Amsterdam, Garfunkel requested they stay at the same Amsterdam Hilton Hotel where John Lennon had had his Bed-In with Yoko Ono the year before.) Of their 1969 touring band, they only retained Knechtel, who, at their expense, would be flown with his family to every show so he could emerge from the wings and play piano on “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

In late April, Simon and Harper left Manhattan for Europe, where they met up, finally, with Garfunkel. Onstage nothing appeared remotely amiss. With only Simon’s crystalline guitar for accompaniment, their voices wove around each other effortlessly and naturally. They never sang off-key, rarely missed a note. They proved they didn’t need elaborate studio production to pull off “Fakin’ It,” the intricately arranged song from Bookends. After two hours and multiple encores, the Royal Albert Hall crowd was so frenetic that a British bobby had to escort both men out the back door to avoid the overeager clutches of fans.

As always, Garfunkel preferred to gaze into the crowd as if focusing on someone in the balcony, hands pushed into his jeans pockets. He frequently introduced the songs by name as if giving a lecture. (“This is an English folk song that comes out of the soundtrack of the movie that we made, called The Graduate,” Garfunkel explained of “Scarborough Fair” in Amsterdam.) In conversation and onstage, Garfunkel exhibited a droll sense of humor and careful diction; the rare hint of his Queens upbringing came when the word “off” would emerge as “awf.” Simon was looser, letting out an impish grin or rolling his shoulders and guitar as if rowing a boat.

In between the in-jokes and stagecraft, minor digs would emerge. In Amsterdam, Garfunkel introduced “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” by saying, “I suggested to Paul that he write a song about” the famous architect. “I didn’t know anything about Frank Lloyd Wright, however,” Simon retorted to the crowd. “I proceeded to write the song anyway.” Whenever Knechtel would begin the “Bridge” chords, Simon would walk off to cede the stage and spotlight to his partner. When Garfunkel hit the triumphant high note at the song’s conclusion, the audiences would inevitably erupt as if watching an Olympic figure skater who’d just completed a perfect axel jump. Watching offstage, Simon would quietly simmer. Did the crowds realize he wrote the song? Did they know Garfunkel was merely the singer? To aggravate matters further, Garfunkel rarely cited Simon as the writer, only telling the crowd they’d be accompanied by “our piano player friend from Hollywood.” Part of Simon knew his own thoughts were petty, but he couldn’t help himself.

Arriving at each venue just before “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was set to start, Knechtel would walk onstage, take a seat at the piano, accompany Garfunkel, then return to his hotel room. Backstage conversation or quality time with his bosses wasn’t encouraged. Knechtel didn’t take it personally. By then, he’d known Simon and Garfunkel several years and was accustomed to their aloofness. Yet Knechtel still found it odd that they were so remote even from each other.

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