For a large segment of the population, folk music reached its apotheosis with “Bookends.” By this time, the folk purists felt abandoned by their hero, Bob Dylan, who had embraced rock and roll and then suddenly left the rat race and faded away entirely. The closest thing to a replacement was Paul Simon and his singing partner Art Garfunkel.
In some ways, the pair became an even more perfect representation of folk, because they met the expectations of their audience, as opposed to constantly challenging them. Simon’s words were literate but also easily digested and easier to interpret than Dylan’s, he sounded patient as opposed to judgmental and/or angry, and the duo’s singing was soothing instead of grating. With Dylan sitting things out, it further enhanced Columbia Records to push Simon and Garfunkel as heirs apparent, and they rose to the challenge.
“Bookends” is certainly the best of the pair’s five albums. The implicit theme of the album addresses relationships in variety of forms, including parent/child, friendship both young and old, lovers struggling to stay together, lovers pulling apart, and self-identity. It’s a wonder that it hangs together as well as it does, because the album itself is really only a patchwork of singles and album tracks written over a stretch of time, but the public ate it up. In a year that was fraught with violence and rebellion, “Bookends” served as an emotional salve that suggested that calm was possible, even as the world seemed to be tearing itself apart.
April 1968 - Billboard Charted #1