Paul Simon was born in 1941 in Newark, New Jersey. His parents were of Hungarian Jewish background, and both were involved in music. Simon’s father played double-bass in a band which he led, and called himself “Lee Sims”.
Simon and Art Garfunkel were classmates in elementary school. They started singing together in school productions when they were around 12. Simon was the more aggressive of the two, who wrote the songs and pushed Garfunkel to stick with him.
In their mid to late teens Simon and Garfunkel called themselves “Tom and Jerry” and recorded a number of songs together. In fact, between 1957 and 1964 Simon wrote, recorded, and released more than 30 songs, some himself and some with Garfunkel.
The duo signed with Columbia Records in 1963 and recorded their first LP called Wednesday Morning, 3 AM. It was released in 1964 and included five songs written by Simon, including an early version of The Sound of Silence. The record did not do well, and the two actually split up and went their separate ways for a while.
But the popularity of The Sound of Silence steadily grew, inspiring its producer, Tom Wilson, to remix the track, overdubbing electric instruments and drums. By January of 1966 it hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
This led to the re-uniting of the duo and a string of successful recordings in the late 60s.
But in 1970, at the height of their popularity, they split up again and Simon spent the next decades as a solo artist, occasionally getting back together with Garfunkel for tour dates and special concerts.
When Simon’s popularity faded in the early 1980s he rejuvenated his career by focusing on “world music”. In 1986 he recorded Graceland with a number of musicians from South Africa. The album became his most successful, and won the Grammy for “Record of the Year”.
Simon has carried on writing and recording well into his mid 70s, but in the latter part of his career has concentrated on guest appearances, mini-tours, and appearances on shows like Saturday Night Live.