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New York duo Simon & Garfunkel represented a counter-culture of music throughout the 1960s with their revolutionary folk music and social commentary.
Their album ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ was one of the bestselling albums of all time, while their hit singles “Sound of Silence” and “Mrs Robinson” have stood the test of time and cemented their place as one of the most influential folk/rock acts of all time.
Essential albums: ‘Mellow Yellow’, ‘Sunshine Superman’
Essential tracks: ‘Catch the Wind’, ‘Mellow Yellow’, ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’, ‘Seasons of the Witch’
The Scottish singer/songwriter Donovan Phillips Leitch, or simply Donovan, created a blend of electronic folk, jazz, psychedelia and world music. The prolific artist was famed for teaching John Lennon finger picking in 1968, and recording the first ever psychedelic/rock track ‘Sunshine Superman’.
Part of the bohemian subculture bursting with revolution in the US, alongside Simon & Garfunkel. His music had a weird and poetic twist that Simon & Garfunkel were both criticized and credited for. Early single ‘Catch the Wind’ represents the traditional folk roots of his music, and is very similar to Simon & Garfunkel’s classic folk sound on ‘Scarborough Fair’.
Simon & Garfunkel song “Fakin’ It” mentions Donovan in the form of his surname Leitch “Good morning, Mr Leitch. Have you had a busy day?” in the middle of the song.
Essential albums: ‘Teaster and the Firecat’, ‘Tea for the Tillerman’, ‘New Masters’
Essential tracks: ‘Morning has Broken’, ‘First Cut is the Deepest’, ‘Wild World’, ‘Father & Son’
Yusef Islam, who was born Steven Demetre Georgiou, is most commonly known by his former stage name Cat Stevens, a multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, philanthropist and humanitarian.
Like Simon & Garfunkel, Cat Stevens wrote traditional folk songs and turned them into folk/rock classics. His take on classic Christian hymn ‘Morning has Broken’ was one of his most successful songs, much like Simon & Garfunkel’s modernising of traditional English ballad originating in Yorkshire ‘Scarborough Fair’, which is said to date back to middle England.
Cat Stevens’ vocals on classic ‘Father and Son’ can also be compared to the smooth combination of Simon & Garfunkel’s voices on song ‘Sound of Silence’. While his acoustic guitar picking style prevalent throughout his music, is also similar to Simon & Garfunkel’s primary picking instrument.
His recent political views have been much discussed in the media, often falsely, but he and his music continues to be loved, with Art Garfunkel inducting him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.
Essential albums: ‘If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears’, ‘The Mamas and the Papas’
Essential tracks: ‘California Dreamin’, ‘Monday, Monday’, ‘Creeque Alley’
Despite only having a short career successful folk-singing group The Mamas & the Papas have become synonymous with the American folk music of the 60s.
Like Simon & Garfunkel, the quartet The Mamas & the Papas are recognised for their impeccable vocal harmonies, arranged by band’s singer/songwriter John Phillips, and catchy melodies. They were America’s answer to The Beatles.
Their emotive track ‘California Dreamin” evokes both an optimism as well as an underlying depression found in their lyrics about the tumultuous environment and relationships of the 60s. While accompanying acoustic guitar picking, perfect harmonies and traditional flute, as can be heard on Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, evokes both optimism and sadness.
Despite their beautiful sounds, many members of the band were plagued with problems and the band split in 1968, just two years after their formation. Emulating the occasionally fiery relationship between Simon and Garfunkel.
Essential albums: ‘Peter, Paul and Mary’, ‘In the Wind’, ‘Moving’
Essential tracks: ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’, ‘If I had a Hammer’, ‘Puff, the Magic Dragon’, ‘500 Miles’
One of the most successful folk-singing acts of the 60s, trio Peter, Paul and Mary enjoyed a 50-year career and produced some of the most memorable folk songs of all time.
Famous for their pretty harmonies, emotive lyrics, and acoustic guitar sound, like Simon & Garfunkel the band had great commercial success and were part of the folk revivalist movement of the 60s that began in New York, and in Greenwich Village.
The band covered traditional song ‘If I had a Hammer’ and re-recorded with their perfect harmonies, much like Simon & Garfunkel’s, the track comes alive. While ‘Puff, The Magic Dragon’ was based on a 50s poem by Leonard Lipton, said to be about the loss of childhood innocence there has been much speculation around what it is really about.
Traditional folk tune ‘500 Miles’ was revived by the band, and is as emotive and poignant as Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Kathy’s Song’, with its uplifting guitar, sad lyrics and minor-leaning chord changes.
Their political involvement and prevalent social conscience can also be compared to Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Sound of Silence’, which its lyrics famously opposing the Vietnam War.
Essential albums: ‘Crosby, Stills and Nash’, ‘Deja Vu’, ‘Daylight Again’
Essential tracks: ‘Ohio’, ‘Marrakesh Express’, ‘Teach Your Children’, ‘Suite Judy Lady Blue Eyes’, ‘Southern Cross’
The folk supergroup created by David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash from 60s bands The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and The Hollies, Crosby, Stills and Nash are known for their perfect three-part harmonies and playing at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. The band were also occasionally joined by Neil Young when they would change their name to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Like Simon & Garfunkel, the band were also famed for their political activism, with single ‘Ohio’ a bold musical statement against the Vietnam War. And a lot like Simon & Garfunkel, the group often fought among themselves and their creative differences left the band playing on and off for years.
Up-beat track ‘Teach Your Children’ and ‘Suite Judy Lady Blue Eyes’ has the perfect harmonies of any early Simon & Garfunkel track, capturing the sound of 60s folk, with catchy choruses and beautiful chord changes, but adding the up-tempo acoustic guitar sounds of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs Robinson’.
Essential albums: ‘Paul Simon’, ‘There Goes Rhymin’ Simon’, ‘Hearts and Bones’, ‘Graceland’
Essential tracks: ‘Mother and Child Reunion’, ‘Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard’, ‘Something so Right’, ’50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’, ‘Allergies’, ‘You Can Call Me Al’
The solo work of half of Simon & Garfunkel, Paul Simon rings of the duo, but first break-up album ‘Paul Simon’ tries to steer away from the folk sound he created with Garfunkel and focuses on using different musical genres, instrumentation and sounds.
Lead single ‘Mother and Child Reunion’ with its reggae beat was recorded in Kingston in Jamaica, and showed his songwriting abilities over varying genres, with ‘Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard’ revealing his world music influences, while using his acoustic guitar in a slightly different way to his folk beginnings.
In the way that Simon & Garfunkel pushed the boundaries of folk and social uprising, Paul Simon pushes the perceptions of music at the time. Up-beat later single ‘You Can Call Me Al’ can be compared to Simon & Garfunkel’s early fun ‘Mrs Robinson’.
Paul Simon continued to achieve success throughout career but still collaborated a number of times with Art Garfunkel for one off shows and charity events, despite their up and down relationship.
The other half of Simon & Garfunkel is work a look – Art Garfunkel had a less success career as a musician, as lacked Paul Simon’s songwriting abilities, although some of his solo recorded tracks are still worth a listen. If you prefer something more progressive, check out the psychedelic rock/folk of band Jefferson Airplane, popular throughout the 60s, who worked with Donavan and other prolific 60s artists or pop/rock groundbreakers The Byrds, considered one of the most influential bands of the 60s.
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