The Beer Test Study Guide #6: Simon and Garfunkel

I need well rounded kids that can pass The Beer Test.

I am not talking about underage drinking, but the ability to have a conversation with anyONE about anyTHING. Music knowledge is a key component to this test and I want to talk about a band that need to be remembered…


There is something about folk music. The blending of harmonies, lyrics and acoustic instruments wraps me up in a warm, fuzzy blanket (which is actually the exact phrase I used to describe The Beach Boys). It’s dangerous to talk generically about “folk” but for my purposes here I am talking about the musical movement of the 1960s that combined the fuzzy blanket elements with the unmistakable anti-war beliefs of a generation that was questioning the social norms and politeness of their parents.

Although we share many things in common, my husband and I sometimes disagree on music. Not often, but occasionally. And nowhere is this more evident than with Simon and Garfunkel. He thinks the duo is overrated, one trick ponies that were in the right place at the right time with just enough musical talent to get big. In fact, he hates them so much that he won’t even listen to covered versions. I do not dare play the Mumford and Sons/Jerry Douglas version of the “Boxer” for fear the cd will be hurled out the window like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (it’s a long story, but it happened and man did that sandwich fly). This makes for an interesting and lively discussion in respects to the Beer Test and my seemingly impossible job of making him realize he is completely wrong.

Let’s start with my discovery of folk and Simon and Garfunkel. My parents came of age in the 1960s and although my Dad enlisted in the army during Vietnam, I think it is safe to say they struggled with the politics of the time while balancing beliefs in social justice and patriotism. My Mom played “Sound of Silence” for me as a history lesson in the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era. She mentioned the movie “The Graduate,” but said I was a bit too young to watch it. My Dad must have had the opposite opinion because I remember watching the film with them. He believed that sex in movies was more natural than violence — which is a side discussion I don’t want to have — ever. From those first introductions my love affair with the band just grew.

So, like my mom, I too introduced my daughter to Simon and Garfunkel with “Sound of Silence.” She had read an article where the lead singer of Bastille named Simon and Garfunkel as one of his largest influences. Like many pre-teen and teen fans, if the lead singer of a favorite band says they love something, then it’s worth looking at or listening to. So there I was, listening to “Sound of Silence” while explaining the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era…but not as well as my Mom. I realized during that interaction that if I didn’t teach my children well (get the reference right?) about Simon and Garfunkel my husband would poison their minds. At a minimum the band’s influence and importance was real and children need to discern that modern “folk” music sometimes tends to be less folk and more banjo.

There is more to Simon and Garfunkel than the Graduate soundtrack, but it’s a good start for kids and The Beer Test. Sure there are some strange theatrical cuts and a few too many instrumentals, but the kids will get what they need with the following: (and here is the whole playlist)

“Mrs. Robinson”

“Sound of Silence”

“April Come She will”

“Scarborough Fair”

Beyond that appetizer, it is daunting to know what to show your kids because the group has multiple Grammys, an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the 51st album on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (take that husband). Here is my list.

“Homeward Bound”

“The 59th Street Bridge Song”

“Old Friends”

“America”

“Cecilia”

“Bridge Over Troubled Water”

“The Only Living Boy in New York”

“The Boxer”

And lastly there is the 1982 Live in Central Park album. Simon and Garfunkel were known to break up and get back together (and then break up again) and this concert was during one of those short “back together” stints. It’s a great look at their music at a time when they could both still hit the harmonies. It’s probably best to freeze them in time when they were at their best vocally.

A survey of the above will get your kids through the Beer Test even if it does not change the heart and mind of your (oops, my) Husband.