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Why Paul Simon Reunited with Art Garfunkel After Bitter Split for the Concert in Central Park (Exclusive)

"We forgot that essentially, we were done as a team," Simon says about his 1981 reunion with Garfunkel in the new documentary 'In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon'

Simon & Garfunkel’s 1981 Central Park concert was the first time Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel performed together as Simon & Garfunkel for a full show after the release of their final album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, in 1970. The concert turned out to be a new beginning for the duo — and a new ending.

In part two of the new documentary In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon, which premieres March 24 on MGM+, Simon, 82, recounts the pivotal Central Park show, what it meant for the future of Simon & Garfunkel and the nerve-wracking moment when a man rushed the stage.

He explains that when he was asked to do the concert, he had just faced a hurdle in his career. “Because [his 1980 album] One-Trick Pony was a flop, when they asked me to do a concert in Central Park, I thought, ‘Well I just had this big flop, maybe I should ask Artie to come and sing some songs on this.'”

Nancy Kaye/AP/Shutterstock Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon performing in Central Park.
Nancy Kaye/AP/Shutterstock Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon performing in Central Park.

Related: Paul Simon Details 'Broken' Friendship with Art Garfunkel in New Documentary: 'We Had an Uneven Partnership'

What they thought would be a small benefit concert turned into half a million people gathering on the Great Lawn in Central Park to watch the highly anticipated reunion of the former duo, and while it began well, the concert was interrupted.

“I saw him get on the stage out of the corner of my eye,” Simon says of the concertgoer who jumped on stage while he was singing “The Late Great Johnny Ace.” The man was quickly pulled offstage by security, and Simon kept performing, while Garfunkel was off to the side watching the episode unfold with no reaction.

“The thing that’s interesting about it is like, my band, they’re ready to jump in," Simon adds. "Artie was sitting on the air… he was not taking a bullet for me.”

Pictorial Parade / Getty Images Simon and Garfunkel Perform in Central Park in 1981
Pictorial Parade / Getty Images Simon and Garfunkel Perform in Central Park in 1981

The success of the show led to a brief revival for Simon & Garfunkel. “After the concert in Central Park with Simon & Garfunkel was so big — it was such a big hit — and then that sort of forced us into... forced me into putting the group back together again and doing a tour,” Simon recalls.

The “Kodachrome” singer says he decided to forget his past grievances with Garfunkel, 82. “We were famously antagonistic, but I thought, 'You know what? I am going to put that all aside and have a good reunited tour with Artie.'"

Simon adds that the tour ended up being “a hit,” and the pair discussed reuniting for good. “We said — the album I was working on, Hearts and Bones — that’ll be a Simon & Garfunkel record."

Things changed, however, when Simon realized how different Garfunkel’s involvement was this time around.

“The way we used to work is, I would write songs, and we would work out the harmonies and sing them together. We were friends, we were hanging out,” Simon says. “But, by the time we were doing Hearts and Bones, Artie’s idea was ‘Give me the songs, and I am going to go to Switzerland and walk and make up the harmonies.’"

"It was a recapitulation of he’s in Mexico making a movie. Well, now he wanted to smoke and walk through Switzerland and make up harmonies to these songs and then he would send them back and we would look at it and say, ‘What is this?’ It didn’t sound like the old Simon & Garfunkel. And I just said, ‘I can’t work this way.'”

Columbia Records/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel
Columbia Records/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel

Related: Paul Simon Tried to Stop Frank Sinatra from Covering One of His Songs: 'I Said, He Can't Do That'

Simon explains that he knew saying no to Garfunkel meant the new album would not be as successful, but it was a sacrifice he was willing to make. “I decided I’m not gonna do it, so I had to make an announcement: 'Hearts and Bones, it’s not gonna be a Simon & Garfunkel album.' Everybody was disappointed. So that record was kind of cursed before it really got off the ground."

While the Central Park concert appeared to be a turning point for Simon & Garfunkel, in reality, Simon says, it was just “a luxurious bandage.”

"The breakup that happened after [Garfunkel's 1970 film] Catch-22 was never repaired," he explains. "It was just a bandage put over it. But the bandage was such a luxurious bandage — the concert in Central Park — we forgot that essentially, we were done as a team.”

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Part one of In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon is available to stream on MGM+.

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