2016 Flashback: Sanders’ campaign use of Simon & Garfunkel song widely praised

Flashback News with a Twist

I went to see a performance of “The Simon and Garfunkel Story” the other night.

The show traces the history of the duo back to their friendship as school mates in Queens, their first foray into rock and roll using the names, “Tom & Jerry,” their incredible successes as Simon & Garfunkel and their sad, but inevitable breakup. The two performers who portrayed Paul and Art were outstanding, mirroring their sound and their look with amazing accuracy.

As many of you know, I went to Queens College, Paul’s alma mater (Art went to Columbia). In 1963, just as the duo was beginning to become known, Paul was the featured performer at my Queens College freshman orientation — he was a senior at the time. Later on in my college career, I joined the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, Paul’s fraternity, where two of my brothers were Paul and Art’s younger “real” brothers, Eddie Simon and Jerry Garfunkel. Because of these connections, Simon & Garfunkel were always special for me, particularly Paul. While Art was a great singer who could make songs soar (“Bridge Over Troubled Water” might not have been the astounding success without Art’s solos), Paul was my first introduction to Queens College and Paul’s AEPi was my AEPi. Little did I know that he would become the genius who wrote both the music and the lyrics for, what many people consider, the greatest folk/rock group in history and who would then go on to a legendary, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, solo career.

Given my “connection” with Paul Simon, my awe and admiration of his extraordinary talent, and reminded by the show I just saw about their music and their partnership, I thought I’d re-post an Around the Block column from 2016 about the Democratic presidential campaign and Simon’s song, “America.”

As widely reported, the Bernie Sanders campaign is using the 47-year old Simon and Garfunkel anthem, “America,” in a poignant and well-received TV commercial. 

The big question for many is, are Simon and Garfunkel for Bernie?

Well, the answer is “yes” Art, maybe Paul. In an interview with CNN, Mr. Garfunkel pledged his allegiance to the candidate, saying, “I like Bernie. I like his fight. I like his dignity and his stance. I like this song.”

Alluding to the famous split and ensuing animosity with Simon, Garfunkel went on to say that while “Paul and I might not agree on everything “(or, according to sources, anything for that matter) they are both “liberals in our inclination.” 

Mr. Garfunkel said the idea to use the song came from the campaign, “I just acquiesced and let Bernie use my song that I’m so proud of.”

According to sources, Mr. Simon did not agree with Mr. Garfunkel, not regarding his “liberal inclination” but about Mr. Garfunkel’s characterization that the song, America, was his. The song, written by Simon in 1968, concerns young lovers hitchhiking their way across the United States, in search of “America.” It was inspired by Simon’s 1964 road trip with his girlfriend Kathy Chitty, who also was the subject of Simon’s earlier work, “Kathy’s Song”.

Regarding the controversy, the feelings of fans everywhere can be summed up in the words of  David “Davy Boy” Dubenstein, 69, of Bayside Queens who said, “Who’s that old, bald guy with glasses on TV talking about Simon and Garfunkel?”

Published by Ted Block

Ted Block is a veteran “Mad Man,” having spent 45+ years in the advertising industry. During his career, he was media director of several advertising agencies, including Benton & Bowles in New York and Foote, Cone and Belding in San Francisco; account management director on clients as varied as Clorox, Levi’s and the California Raisin Advisory Board (yes, Ted was responsible for the California Dancing Raisins campaign); and regional director for Asia based in Tokyo for Foote, Cone where he was also the founding president of FCB’s Japanese operations. Ted holds a Bachelor’s degree in communications from Queens College and, before starting in advertising, served on active duty as an officer on USS McCloy (DE-1038) in the U.S. Navy.

4 thoughts on “2016 Flashback: Sanders’ campaign use of Simon & Garfunkel song widely praised

  1. ….too bad they had such a bitter breakup……although their legacy is ensured, who knows how many more terrific tunes they might have produced had they continued to collaborate?!

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    1. It was a bitter breakup, yes. But, frankly, I think Paul’s output as a solo was equal to or, in some respects better, than his S&G work. Think the innovations of “Graceland” and “The Rhythm of the Saints” and the sheer exuberance of “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. It’s as if Garfunkel almost held him back.

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