As part of an annual music festival, the duo graced the Forest Hills Stadium stage in 1966, 1967, 1968, and for two nights in 1970. Paul Simon returned to the stadium as a solo act in 2016, and his Homeward Bound farewell tour made a stop in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on September 22.
“Paul's decision of where he performed the final concert of his final tour says a great deal about where he began his successful career,” said Forest Hills resident Glenn Lurie. “He has sincere respect for his audience, and as a musician, he got better and better as the years rocked on.”
Classmates at PS 164 and Parsons JHS, Simon and Garfunkel were practically neighbors in Kew Gardens Hills. Simon lived at 137-62 70th Road and Garfunkel at 136-58 72nd Avenue.
“We used to play stickball together, and then we were both interested in music, so we began singing,” Simon told the Union-Sun and Journal in 1968.
“I saw them in the Forest Hills High School auditorium when they were nicknamed Tom and Jerry,” said classmate Helen Goldbeck. “They sang their first record, ‘Hey Schoolgirl.'”
Columbia Records released their first album, “Wednesday Morning, 3 AM,” in 1964, Their signature folk-rock song, “The Sound of Silence,” became the number one song in America, and was followed by the release of their 1966 album, “Sounds of Silence.”
The duo would go on to release three more albums and win 10 Grammy Awards. They were also the 2003 recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
“For my 15th birthday, my brother David took me to see Simon & Garfunkel at the Stadium, and they were great, of course,” said Sandy Goldbeck King. “My brother and Paul were good friends in high school and college, so after the concert we attended a party at Paul’s parents’ home. I got their autographs, and before we left, Paul played for us a tape recording of a song they had just recorded, ‘Scarborough Fair.’”
South Florida resident Elliot Pollack was raised in the Rego Park Crescents and attended the 1967 Forest Hills concert with fellow FHHS graduate and girlfriend at the time, Marilyn Leider.
“The Doors opened the concert by playing the long version of ‘Light My Fire,’” he said. “They were booed by the crowd because those there were mostly folk music fans. Simon and Garfunkel were local heroes, and the conservative attitude of Forest Hills definitely did shine through.”
Judith Mermelstein of Hillcrest remembers the great harmonies.
“At one point, Simon broke a guitar string and had to tune his substitute guitar, causing the amazingly rude audience to get restless, so he said ‘We tune because we care!’” she said. “Artie had the voice of an angel.”
Class of 1967 FHHS graduate Liz Lacob lived around the corner at 68-43 Clyde Street at the time. In 1967, her boyfriend treated her to tickets, but did not consider it to be a “big show” considering The Beatles and The Rolling Stones had played the same stage.
“‘The Sound of Silence’ was their big radio hit, but when they sang ‘April Come She Will,’ you could have heard a pin drop,” she said. “Perhaps right there a different kind of folk-rock was born.
“The idea that words could be more important than the beat became really clear that night,” Lacob continued. “We were used to bands with loud electric sounds and drums, and not to two guys with a guitar.”
After the concert, her boyfriend and a neighborhood friend George Pressman returned to her home to reflect upon their experience.
“George said ‘Let’s go back and meet them, and I replied ‘George, don't be ridiculous!'” she recalls. “We walked back to the main entrance which by now was quiet and empty, and sure enough, Simon & Garfunkel were standing right there like two guys from the neighborhood.
No crowds, no agents, no security, so we walked up and started talking about how wonderful the show was and shaking hands,” she added. “Paul Simon was sort of aloof and looking away, while Art Garfunkel was just as enthusiastic as we were,” she added.
“It was my first real concert. There were over 14,000 people and it was mesmerizing,” said John Klopotowski, who attended the 1968 show. “At the time, I was playing guitar for just over one year and idolized Paul Simon. It was just the two of them for approximately two-and-a-half hours with four encores.
“When we got back to the car, I said ‘I promise to practice the guitar diligently until I’m as good as Paul Simon,'” he added. “I’m not sure if I accomplished it, but I’m still playing. They gave a young man just turning 13 a sense of real artistic quality that persists to this day.”
Rego Park resident David Evan Karasek attended the 1970 show with Steve Silverman.
“Listening to Simon & Garfunkel was like having older, thoughtful siblings that offered great advice about life, and amplified common experiences,” he said. “At Forest Hills Stadium, it was like a giant family gathering. In the 1990s, I played ‘Sounds of Silence’ for my son, who was the same age I was when I first heard them, and he shouted ‘No one writes music like that anymore!’”