By Meira Bienstock
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel have a notoriously contentious relationship, but that won’t be a factor come Jan. 29-30.
That’s when the Merriam Theatre will present “The Simon & Garfunkel Story.” With a live band behind Simon (Taylor Bloom) and Garfunkel (Ben Cooley), the duo will serve as excited fans who tell the story of Simon & Garfunkel in the third person. Then they’ll slip into character to sing their hits.
“Paul Simon does have a certain way of strumming the guitar, which I try to incorporate. He also has a very particular way of forming certain vowel sounds when he sings and I try to do that as well,” said Bloom, who identified with Simon as they’re both sensitive, driven and Jewish.
The show began touring in 2017, with its first performance in Niagara Falls, New York. The production uses what it bills as state-of-the-art video projection, photos and original film footage. A full band performs the duo’s hits including “Mrs. Robinson,” “Cecilia,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and “Homeward Bound,” among others.
The show traces the history of the two performers from Queens, who met in their sixth-grade performance of “Alice in Wonderland.” In 1957, under the name Tom & Jerry, they recorded the song, “Hey, Schoolgirl” with Big Records, which hit No. 49 on the Billboard chart. They hit it big in the ’60s before breaking up in 1970, although they did reunite in 1981 for a concert in Central Park in New York City.
The duo has sold more than 100 million albums since 1965. They won 10 Grammy Awards — including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 and a Grammy Hall of Fame Award the following year for “The Sound of Silence.” They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Although Simon and Garfunkel are both Jewish, they’ve only talked about their faith on rare occasions.
“I like to think I sing for the universal spirit,” Garfunkel once said to The Jewish Chronicle. “I’m not in favor of identifying with religious differences. I love the Jews. They’re bright, they’re motivated, they’re pushy.”
He also noted that he thought of himself as a singer first and a Jew second. As for Simon, the only time he mentions Judaism is in his song “Hearts and Bones.”
“One and one-half wandering Jews/ Free to wander whenever they choose,” he wrote.
Meira Bienstock is a freelance writer.