Historic Live Albums – The Concert in Central Park by Simon & Garfunkel

Some concerts turn out to be different than you had expected. The show by folk duo Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel in New York for example. The charity concert for the renovation of Central Park is listed in the history books as one of the best live performances of the two musicians.

In February 1982 the first live album of the folk duo Simon and Garfunkel was released: The Concert in Central Park. With classics such as Mrs. Robinson, The Boxer and The Sound of Silence you can’t erase this folk duo from the history of popular music. The record is also a vain attempt to bring the two musicians together, who haven’t played together for years due to quarrels.

The Concert in Central Park

The occasion for the concert is Central Park. The park has fallen into decline as a result of many budget cuts in the 1960s and 1970s. The green heart of New York – meant to offer the inhabitants a place where they can come to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet in ‘the city that never sleeps’ – is in need of renovation.

The city is still struggling with financial problems at the beginning of the 1980s and doesn’t have the three million dollars needed to restore the park. Mayor Ed Koch calls upon the Central Park Conservancy to come up with a solution at the beginning of 1980.

One of the initiatives of this foundation is to organize charity concerts in the park. The proceeds of the merchandise, television and video rights go to Central Park. The folk duo, which has its roots in New York and often refers to the city in its songs, is a perfect choice. Even though Simon and Garfunkel have their doubts about the project.

Simon & Garfunkel

You know what they say: “quit while your ahead.” Most artists never do, but there is always an exception to the rule. Simon and Garfunkel reach their peak after five studio albums at the end of the sixties.

Around that time, the two New Yorkers grew apart both as friends and musically. They decide to stop. Their last album Bridge over Troubled Water dominates the top of the Billboard rankings for ten weeks.

When Paul Simon is approached for the benefit concert about ten years after the act collapsed, he reacts enthusiastically. However, he has doubts about a possible collaboration with his old friend Art Garfunkel and is not entirely convinced of the commercial success of the project. Simon struggles with depression and wants to avoid setbacks. After some insistence by the promotor he contacts his buddy.

Preparations

Art Garfunkel lives in Switzerland when he receives the phone call from his old partner in folky crime. His enthusiasm is so great, that he immediately flies back to New York. There the preparations begin for what would later become one of the duo’s most successful live albums.

The rehearsals are not without struggles and fights. Old wounds open up again and the two have a lot of quarrels. In an interview Paul Simon says: “The rehearsals were terrible. Artie and I were arguing all the time.”

At first Simon wants to open the show with his solo act and then continue the performance together with Garfunkel. After some discussion, both artists agree that this concert should be carried by both of them. Although the announcement posters contain the separate names of the musicians, the artists announce a week before the show that they will perform as Simon and Garfunkel.

Commercial success

With half a million visitors, the folk duo concert in Central Park is America’s seventh largest show. It raised some 51,000 dollars for the renovation of the park. In addition, the album itself and the live recordings become great commercial successes. It almost seems like the two stars could reunite again.

After a much-praised performance, Simon and Garfunkel try to renew their career as a team and follow up with a world tour. This turns out well, but the attempts to record a new record end in disaster. Art Garfunkel leaves the studio and Paul Simon takes advantage of the situation to record and release his solo album Hearts and Bones.

The Concert in Central Park was not the last time the two claim the stage as a duo. Over the years they play at each other’s solo performances. In 2004 they even perform together under the name Simon and Garfunkel on the live album Old Friends: Live on Stage.

Set list

During the concert in Central Park, all classics are covered alternated by the artists’ own work. Of the 21 tracks played, only 19 made the record. The fans who want to hear the whole concert must check out the video recordings.

Curious about our historical record of February? Check it below.

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