A biography of the singer/songwriter who helped define the cultural landscape of the 1960s as half of the folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel and who later achieved massive success as a solo artist.
At an impromptu school assembly in 1952, Paul Simon (b. 1941) first heard his classmate Art Garfunkel sing, though they didn’t know each other at the time. The experience made an impression on the young Simon, who saw in Garfunkel his nascent desire to become a singer and star. As freelance journalist and veteran music writer Carlin (Bruce, 2012, etc.) observes in his nuanced, fascinating portrait, Simon’s friendship with Garfunkel would be the defining relationship of his life, both professionally and personally. Their brotherly and often contentious friendship would see them rise during the 1960s from humble wannabes with second lives in law school and a graduate program in mathematics to pop superstars. Growing up in a musical household—his father, Louis, was a professional bass player—Simon’s musical interests were encouraged, and he received early lessons in the business, which would influence his shrewd approach to making deals. As Carlin notes, however, Louis would become resentful of his son’s success and would harangue him to give up his career to become a teacher despite being a world-renowned pop star. This feeling of inferiority would fuel Simon’s lifelong identity crisis, as he adopted many pseudonyms throughout his career, notably Jerry Landis, and constantly struggled with fame and his own abilities. Carlin expertly tracks Simon’s professional career, from the earliest days with Garfunkel when they were finding their footing as performers, through the climax of their career as a band with their 1970 album “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” to Simon’s solo artistic peak with the 1986 release of “Graceland.” Simon’s music career defies easy categorization—much as his relationship with Garfunkel does—but in Carlin’s portrayal, his legacy as an innovative songwriter and musician is undeniable.
An absorbing and layered study of “one of the most influential voices in Western popular culture.”