The math on Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel's long and winding career is as fuzzy as their melodies are crystalline: six splits in five decades and a four-to-one ratio of greatest-hits compilations (20 since 1972) to original studio albums (only five, all appearing between '64 and '70). Along the way, the pair ushered in a new Top 40 category (folk rock), officiated the low-fidelity marriage of pop music and the movie soundtrack, and became the go-to singer/songwriters for pot-smoking collegians and fist-shaking war protesters nationwide. Not bad for a couple of love proselytizers who, more often than not, hated each other's guts.
The duo debuted in 1957 as Tom & Jerry, pseudonyms that were not without symbolism: One, short and crafty; the other, tall, hapless and typically a step behind. Indeed, it was Simon's Greenwich Village-meets-Scarborough Fair songbook that prompted their first reunion and reinvention, from flighty, Everly Brothers-influenced pop harmonizers to 1964's underappreciated folk template Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. and the serene, nuanced singers and strummers on the era-defining four LPs that followed, each bearing more enduring hits than the last. By 1968, when director Mike Nichols used several of the biggest ones — and altered the lyrics to another, making "Mrs. Roosevelt" into "Mrs. Robinson" — to score The Graduate, Simon & Garfunkel stood beside the Beatles and Bob Dylan as pop culture's preeminent social commentators and commercial successes.
The 1970 smash Bridge Over Troubled Water, released three months before John and Paul's swan song Let It Be, similarly marked the end for Paul and Art. Reconvening at least once in every decade since, they are responsible for two of the most celebrated reunions of the last 30 years: 1981's concert in Central Park and 2004's "Old Friends" tour finale at the Colosseum in Rome, each witnessed by more than a half-million fans. Their songs continue to grace hit films, too, appearing in Garden State, Rumor Has It, The Watchmen and, most recently, (500) Days of Summer. — Noah Bonaparte Pais
Simon & Garfunkel
5:15 p.m. Saturday, April 24, Acura Stage