Directed By: Michael Lindsay-Hogg
Starring: Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel
Trivia: The song 'The Late Great Johnny Ace' was interrupted by a fan on stage, resulting in it being the only song which did not appear on the soundtrack
Simon and Garfunkel’s The Concert in Central Park played continuously on U.S. cable station HBO back in 1982, and while I have no way of knowing for sure, I’m guessing I watched the entire thing at least 10 times. Eventually, I bought the soundtrack (on cassette tape, and then, a few years later, on CD), which I listened to over and over again. The Concert in Central Park was my first experience with Simon and Garfunkel’s music, and it turned me into a lifelong fan.
The Concert in Central Park was shot during a benefit show that took place on September 19, 1981, when half a million people crowded into Manhattan’s Central Park to witness the reunion of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, a folk / rock duo that split up in 1970 after the release of their 5th album Bridge Over Troubled Waters. Kicking the evening off with “Mrs. Robinson” (written for the 1967 film The Graduate and one of their biggest hits), Simon and Garfunkel then performed a number of their most popular tunes, including “Homeward Bound”, “The Boxer”, “Scarborough Fair”, and “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”. Along with the songs they do together, The Concert in Central Park also features a few solo efforts from each performer, such as Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”, “Late in the Evening” and “The Late Great Johnny Ace” (which was briefly interrupted when an intoxicated fan ran onstage) as well as a beautiful tune by Art Garfunkel titled “A Heart in New York”. And how better to round out the evening than with a rendition of another of the duo’s early hits, “The Sounds of Silence”? At one point, we’re even treated to a cover version of the Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up Little Susie”.
Spurred on by The Concert in Central Park, I would, over the course of a year or so, buy every Simon and Garfunkel album I could get my hands on, not to mention most of Simon’s solo releases (his 1986 album Graceland is still one of my all-time favorites). For me, The Concert in Central Park will always be more than a great concert movie; I’ll also remember it as the film that introduced me to some of the finest music ever produced.