Just six years separated Simon & Garfunkel’s debut album from their final studio LP, Bridge Over Troubled Water. The duo of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel would later reunite half a dozen times, but they never expanded their catalogue.
Despite this relative career brevity, Simon & Garfunkel are one of the most frequently covered bands in popular music history. As a result, many listeners were introduced to Paul Simon‘s songwriting courtesy of another artist.
I’m thinking here of how a new generation fell in love with ‘Mrs. Robinson’ thanks to The Lemonheads’ 1992 version. Or how rebellious skate punks would frequently rock out to Bodyjar’s ‘Hazy Shade of Winter’ in the early ’00s. Or how the late-’00s neo-folk movement led to a revived interest in ‘America’ thanks to Swedish duo First Aid Kit.
In honour of the band’s continued relevance, here are ten of the most memorable Simon & Garfunkel covers.
‘Mrs. Robinson’ by The Lemonheads:
‘Mrs. Robinson’ appeared on the soundtrack to the 1968 film The Graduate. 24 years later, The Lemonheads reached the ARIA top 20 with their version of the song. Despite its success, Lemonheads frontman Evan Dando claims to hate the song, and Paul Simon.
‘Hazy Shade of Winter’ by Bodyjar:
‘Hazy Shade of Winter’ has been covered by the likes of The Bangles and Gerard Way, but it was also a major triple j hit for Melbourne pop punk band Bodyjar in 1999. The light-footed original came out as a standalone single in 1966, but Bodyjar’s version considerably cranks the tempo.
‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ by Aretha Franklin:
Hand any song to Aretha and she’s likely to improve on the original. The Queen of Soul recorded a cover of the title track to Simon & Garfunkel’s final record just 12 months after its release. Her gospel-influenced version was so good it showed up on a greatest hits release that same year (1971).
‘Kathy’s Song’ by Westerman:
London indie pop songwriter Westerman achieves a rare feat by making ‘Kathy’s Song’ his own, while also preserving all of the original’s charm. ‘Kathy’s Song’ appeared on Simon & Garfunkel’s second album Sounds of Silence in 1966, while Westerman’s version came out in 2019.
‘The Boxer’ by Emmylou Harris:
Bob Dylan covered ‘The Boxer’ on his much maligned double LP Self Portrait. It’s tempting to include that here, and Dylan and Simon have even performed the song together in concert (to mixed results). But it’s hard to look past Emmylou Harris’ version, which appeared on her 1980 LP Roses in the Snow.
‘The Sound of Silence’ by Chromatics:
‘The Sound of Silence’ was Simon & Garfunkel’s breakthrough single. It first appeared on their debut album Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. as ‘The Sounds of Silence’. The album was a flop and the duo broke up. However, they were compelled to regroup once the track started getting radio play. It eventually went to number one and inspired their second album, Sounds of Silence. The song’s core melodies are beautifully rendered in this version by Chromatics, which opens their 2019 album, Closer to Grey.
‘I Am a Rock’ by Red House Painters:
Mark Kozelek is known as one of indie rock’s more cantankerous figures. But before embarking on a solo carer (often under the Sun Kil Moon moniker), Kozelek led San Francisco slowcore outfit Red House Painters. It’s in this capacity that he delivered a wonderful, elegant version of S&G’s 1965 single ‘I Am A Rock’.
‘7 O’Clock News / Silent Night’ by Phoebe Bridgers feat. Fiona Apple and Matt Berninger:
‘7 O’Clock News / Silent Night’ was an exercise in sound collage that appeared on S&G’s third album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. It does exactly what it says on the tin, pairing a recording of the Christmas carol ‘Silent Night’ with a news bulletin from August 3rd, 1966. Phoebe Bridgers’ 2019 version follows suit, though it’s actually The National’s Matt Berninger imitating a newsreader.
‘Homeward Bound’ by Glen Campbell:
Bloody heck Glen Campbell sounds good here. This is one of those just-too-perky Paul Simon songs, which could easily turn listeners away. But Campbell – who sounds not unlike Harry Nilsson – brings an extra dose of grace to proceedings.
‘America’ by First Aid Kit:
By the time they released their version of ‘America’, Stockholm’s Klara and Johanna Söderberg were world renowned for their close harmonies and easy-listening covers. ‘America’ took things to new heights, however, and even garnered a nod of approval from Simon.