New York City legends don’t come much bigger than Simon & Garfunkel. Their huge homecoming show in 1981, a concert which saw the band reunite for a cause much greater than themselves, plays a huge role in why they are so adored in their hometown.
The concert came at a strange time in both Simon & Garfunkel careers. Following the disbandment of the duo, at a time when both their solo ventures were faltering somewhat, life in their hometown of New York looked slightly more troublesome. The recession had hit the city and hit it hard, so the two members put their differences behind them to uplift the New Yorkers’ spirit.
To help alleviate New York’s economic decline, concert promoter Ron Delsener suggested a free benefit concert in Central Park. Delsener then contacted Paul Simon with the idea of reuniting Simon & Garfunkel to headline the event to which they happily obliged. The special concert was then held on September 19, 1981, which attracted more than 500,000 people—marking what would be their largest ever concert attendance.
Warner Bros. Records would later release a live album of the show, The Concert in Central Park, which went on to become double platinum in the US with the 90-minute recording of the concert was sold to Home Box Office (HBO) for over $1 million. Following the success of the event, the duo undertook a world tour beginning in May 1982. However, they couldn’t maintain keeping their differences in the past which, unfortunately, lead to them not speaking to one another for the majority of the tour and unable to recapture the magic they conjured in Central Park.
One moment that stands out as a particularly heartwarming one was their touching rendition of ‘American Tune’, a song which sums up the political mood of America following the Watergate Scandal. It sees Simon sing: “I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered, I don’t have a friend who feels at ease/I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered/Or driven to its knees.”
In 2011, Paul Simon was asked about political references in his songs, and he said: “I don’t write overtly political songs, although American Tune comes pretty close, as it was written just after Nixon was elected.” Due to the song not mentioning Nixon by name, it means that the track is a song that is relevant for the ages and one that feels really important right now.
Check out the footage of Simon & Garfunkel performing ‘American Tune’ below from their historic Central Park show.