Simon & Garfunkel's Concert In Central Park Couldn't Make Them Friends Again

By | September 20, 2019

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Charles Ruppmann/NY Daily News via Getty Images

On September 19, 1981, Simon and Garfunkel reunited for the Concert in Central Park after years of acrimony. Had they really put their hurt feelings behind them to work together? Were they about to usher in a new era of ‘60s folkie love? Not really. The concert was amazing for the fans, but Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were never going to get back together, not in a personal sense. The show actually put them more at odds than they were when they weren’t speaking. While the concert helped revitalize Central Park and Paul Simon’s career, it pretty much ruined their friendship.

Simon and Garfunkel were the sound of New York City and the folk scene in the late ‘60s, and after their split, they had both pursued solo musical careers and explored film acting, with Garfunkel finding more success than Simon on the big screen. Though Simon's solo musical career had been successful -- with early- and mid-'70s hits like "Kodachrome," "Loves Me Like A Rock," and "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" -- he was in a downswing in the early ‘80s. His last project had been One Trick Pony, a 1980 movie he wrote and starred in, which had flopped; the album by the same name was moderately successful.

Simon, Garfunkel, And Central Park Were All In Decline In The Early ‘80s

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source: HBO

At the same time, Central Park was hardly the “green lung” that it had once been. The park was deteriorating and abandoned, as the city lacked funding to give it the upkeep it sorely needed. Park Commissioner Gordon Davis hit on the idea of throwing a concert to raise the $3,000,000 needed to restore the park. The city could negotiate the rights to a television special, merchandise, and the whole lot of filthy lucre while giving the people of New York something to remember.

Promoters turned to Simon and Garfunkel, two New York boys who never left the city -- they weren’t on the best of terms with one another but were professional enough to work together from time to time. They inked the deal and the concert was set in motion.