What are Simon & Garfunkel’s 5 Biggest Hits?

They’re not just one of the greatest duos in the history of pop music. Simon & Garfunkel also stand as one of the defining acts of the 1960s or any other generation. In a relatively short time recording together, the pair delivered an impressive list of iconic hits.

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But which of those songs made the biggest impact on the U.S. charts? Here are five massive singles from Paul and Artie, and the stories behind them.

5. “Cecilia” (No. 4 in 1970)

On the Bridge over Troubled Water album, Paul Simon was already making subtle moves towards the kind of music he would be making as a solo artist. For example, “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)” anticipated his interest in world music. And “Cecilia” is a stepping stone towards songs like “Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” Even as he was known as one of the era’s defining lyricists, Simon also understood the power of a great groove, especially blasting out of radios. “Cecilia” is a trifle from a lyrical sense, but the rhythm makes you forget all that and simply enjoy yourself while listening.

4. “I Am a Rock” (No. 3 in 1966)

Simon had already laid down two versions of this song (one with Garfunkel, one solo) before it was resurrected following the success of “The Sounds of Silence.” Maybe there was something cynical about the way they retrofitted it in “folk-rock” fashion for commercial impact. But how can you complain when you consider the session aces (Joe South, Carol Kaye, Larry Knechtel, and Hal Blaine) they brought in to realize that sound? The chiming musical backing set against the smooth-flowing poetry of the lyrics is an irresistible mix.

3. “The Sounds of Silence” (No. 1 in 1966)

Oft-forgotten in the story of how “The Sounds of Silence” came back to life via the folk-rock production concocted by producer Tom Wilson is that several radio stations in the U.S. had started to give airplay to the acoustic version of the song. Might it have broken wide anyway? Well, it’s a good thing Wilson didn’t take any chances, because his decision to remix it paved the way for Paul and Artie to reunite and start recording again. In other words, without it, we might have missed out on a lot of wonderful music from the duo.

2. “Mrs. Robinson” (No. 1 in 1968)

Tasked with providing music for The Graduate, Simon was sort of noodling with his acoustic guitar, coming up with some rhythmic passages he thought might work behind some of the more action-filled scenes in the film. He then began to free-associate some lyrics, and soon “Mrs. Robinson” started to take shape. The famous line about Joe DiMaggio came about more because it sounded great against the melody than anything else. (Simon was actually more of a Mickey Mantle fan, but he couldn’t figure out how to work the Mick’s name into the meter.)

1. “Bridge over Troubled Water (No. 1 in 1970)

Gospel influences seeping through Paul Simon came to the fore in dramatic fashion on this track. It’s one of pop music’s finest productions, from the achingly pretty piano work by Larry Knechtel to Hal Blaine’s crashing drums. It’s always tempting to interpret a record based on the context surrounding those who made it. If you do, you can imagine Simon’s lyrics and Garfunkel’s soaring interpretation as a promise to each other that the pair’s friendship could rise again when one needed the other most. That hasn’t really seemed to be the case in real life between the two, but every time this powerful song plays we can suspend disbelief.

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Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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