“The Only Living Boy In New York!” Paul Simon Skewers Art Garfunkel Over “Catch-22!”

“The Only Living Boy In New York!”

What a great title for a movie! This new Amazon release was directed by Marc Webb and stars Callum Turner, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan, Cynthia Nixon and Jeff Bridges.

Alex and I are looking forward to seeing this film, because it’s not only a great movie title, it’s actually a classic Paul Simon song that was written as a protest against his singing partner Art Garfunkel!

Simon & Garfunkel – And The Movie That Broke Them Up!

One of the great musical duos of all time were Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel – Simon wrote classic songs like “Mrs. Robinson”, “The Sound Of Silence” and “Homeward Bound”, and Garfunkel had the voice of an angel.

Simon and Garfunkel concert Ohio University 10-29-1968

But as you can see from this picture, there was a distance between them – and by the time they created their greatest masterpiece, a movie broke them up!

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” – VERY Troubled!

In 1970, Simon & Garfunkel delivered a masterpiece – and a swan song as well.

The brilliant “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was only their 5th studio album, and it was to be their last: filled with classic songs like “Cecelia”, “The Boxer” and “El Condor Pasa”, along with the seminal title track. That song won five awards at the 13th Annual Grammy Awards in 1971, including Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

Here they are singing the song together in their famous Central Park concert:

There is a terrific article about the album at “UltimateClassicRock.com” – and it goes into the tension behind the scenes that led to their breakup.

Here is what Art Garfunkel said about “Bridge”, which Paul convinced him to sing solo:

“I was very pleased to hear such a rich song intended for me. I always felt he did some of his best writing when it came in the form of a gift. When people get outside of themselves and say, “This is for you,” it taps the better part of themselves,” Garfunkel told Paul Zollo years later. “And I loved it.”

Calling the song “something of a mystery to me,” Simon recalled:

“Nothing prompted me to write it. I was listening to a lot of gospel quartets, particularly the Swan Silvertones and the Everly Brothers album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. I was stunned and I thought, ‘that’s a lot better than I usually write.’”

So, a brilliant album, an iconic song – and a disaster unfolding behind the scenes!

It all started to unravel for Simon & Garfunkel when Art Garfunkel took a role in Director Mike Nichols’ film of the classic anti-war novel “Catch-22”:

The movie had an all-star cast including Alan Arkin, Richard Benjamin, Jon Voight, Martin Sheen, Bob Newhart, Orson Welles and Charles Grodin – so Garfunkel was in heady company.

Although his part was small, filming stretched stretched out for months, leaving Paul Simon to sit and stew alone in New York, waiting to record the “Bridge” album…prompting him to write a song about his frustration with “Tom”…


Paul Skewers “Tom”!

Yes, Paul Simon skewered “Tom!”

When Simon and Garfunkel began singing together, they were known as Tom & Jerry – so Paul wrote a song to him – here are the opening lyrics for “The Only Living Boy IN New York”:

“Tom, get your plane right on time
I know your part’ll go fine
Fly down to Mexico
Do-n-do-d-do-n-do and here I am,
The only living boy in New York”

Yep, Paul was chastising Art for not leaving the film set and coming home…leaving him to wait to record the album!

As “Ultimateclassicrock.com” reports:

“Garfunkel admitted that his row with Simon over Catch-22 was really just a symptom of a much larger problem. “We weren’t having a good time. We weren’t enjoying ourselves. We were tired of working together. We wanted a break from each other,” he told SongTalk. “We were not getting along particularly well, and there were a lot of conflicts that were unpleasant conflicts. … I remember thinking, ‘When this record’s over, I want to rest from Paul Simon.’ And I would swear that he was feeling the same thing, like ‘I don’t want to know from Artie for a year or so.’”

This is a great article, as it points out the divisions that had grown between the two over the years:


“The catch, supposed Garfunkel, was that it ended up being his absence rather than Simon’s edict that put the brakes on their work — and so instead of a hiatus, it turned out to be a split. “I was in love with Simon & Garfunkel. I thought we were a neat act. I didn’t want to tip that over, I just wanted to take a rest from it,” Garfunkel insisted. “And here, with the help of Mike’s offer, I wanted to enrich my side of the group with this acting role. Well, Paul couldn’t abide by these things. They were evidently threatening. So, in his mind, waiting for Artie is something he couldn’t do. Now, I was waiting for Paul to write the tunes all the time, before we’d go in the studio.”
Simon admitted, in a talk with Rolling Stone, that “it was very hard work, and it was complex. I think Artie said that he felt that he didn’t want to record, and I know I said I felt that if I had to go through these kinds of personality abrasions, I didn’t want to continue to do it. We didn’t say, ‘That’s the end.’ We didn’t know if it was the end or not. But it became apparent by the time the movie was out, and by the time my album was out, that it was over.”

Simon and Garfunkel rift

The song lyrics continued to press Garfunkel to let his “honesty shine” and come home – but clearly, by that time the damage was done and the song was Simon’s way of telling his friend goodbye…

“Half of the time we’re gone but we don’t know where
And we don’t know where
Here I am
Half of the time we’re gone, but we don’t know where
And we don’t know where

Tom, get your plane right on time
I know that you’ve been eager to fly now
Hey, let your honesty shine, shine, shine
Like it shines on me
The only living boy in New York
The only living boy in New York”

The song is beautiful, by the way, melancholy and reflective.

Here is a gorgeous live version from Paul Simon in 2012:

Was the movie worth it to Garfunkel? Well, “Catch-22” was a box office bomb when released, but has grown in stature over the years. Director Steven Soderbergh recorded a commentary track with Nichols for the home video release and it’s amazing:

If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s amazing – see the trailer here:

https://johnrieber.com/2014/03/24/the-brilliant-black-comedy-catch-22-a-neglected-movie-masterpiece/

Bravo once again to the Writers at “Ultimateclassicrock.com” – see their whole story here:

http://ultimateclassicrock.com/simon-garfunkel-bridge-over-troubled-water/

And check out the new movie as well!



Categories: 70's Cinema, 70's Music, Academy Awards, Action Films, Art, Awards, Books / Media, Classic Rock, Cult Movies, Film Fight Club, Film Noir, Great Films, Hollywood, Independent Cinema, Los Angeles, Memoirs, Movies, Music, New York, Obscure Movies, Obscure Music, Steven Soderbergh, Talent/Celebrities, Travel, Uncategorized

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6 replies

  1. Live always thought this was one of the saddest break ups in music history, but I never knew the story of why. Thanks for this great post John.😊

  2. Fine article, John. Paul Simon has earned all the musical accolades accorded him, but the criticism, too. The more one reads of his personality — see Art’s here and insights with some of his behind-the-scenes traits in Glenn Berger’s studio memoir — shows some of the difficulty it was to work with this artist. Still though, the results do speak for themselves, especially with the ironically titled, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’.

  3. Their split made headlines at the time, as I recall. I never liked Garfunkel as actor at all, to be honest. I always found him a bit creepy, with that weird hair, and high forehead combination. In fact, I didn’t really ever enjoy watching them perform as a duo, although listening to their work is another matter entirely.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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