Posted in: News, Trivia Q & A | 1 Comment | August 12, 2021
Q. Who reunited in 1981 for ‘The Concert in Central Park’, which attracted more than 500,000 music fans?
A. Simon & Garfunkel
New York City’s Central Park, an oasis that functions as the city’s “green lung”, was in a state of deterioration in the mid-1970s. Though Central Park had been designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, at the start of the 1980s, the city lacked the financial resources to spend an estimated US$3,000,000 to restore or even to maintain the park. The nonprofit Central Park Conservancy was founded in 1980, and began a successful campaign to raise renovation funds.
In the early 1980s, Parks Commissioner Gordon Davis, responsible for New York City’s green areas, and Ron Delsener, one of the city’s most influential concert promoters, developed the idea of helping Central Park financially with a free open-air concert, under the legal guidance of Bob Donnelly. The city would use profits from merchandising, television, and video rights to renovate the park. Earlier park performances by Elton John and James Taylor showed that this concept could be a success.
They decided on Simon & Garfunkel, a group that had formed in New York City in the 1950s, and had been one of the most successful folk rock groups in the 1960s. Simon & Garfunkel had broken up at the height of their popularity and shortly after the release of their fifth studio album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, which is deemed to be their artistic peak and which topped the 1970 Billboard charts for ten weeks. They had grown apart artistically and did not get along well with each other. In the following eleven years, both continued musical careers as solo artists, and worked together only sporadically on single projects.
Delsener presented the plan to Paul Simon in the summer of 1981. Simon was enthusiastic about the idea, but questioned whether it could be financially successful, especially given the poor audience attendance of his last project, the autobiographical movie One-Trick Pony. Simon’s confidence had declined and he had sought treatment for depression. He questioned whether he and Art Garfunkel could work together, but contacted Garfunkel, who was vacationing in Switzerland. Garfunkel was excited about the idea, and immediately returned to the US.
From the promoter’s viewpoint, Simon and Garfunkel were ideal choices. Not only were they likely to draw a large crowd to the concert, they also had roots in the city - both had grown up and gone to school in Forest Hills, Queens. Music critic Stephen Holden pointed out that, unlike artists who had left in pursuit of lifestyles offered by other locales, the two had always been a part of New York City.
Simon & Garfunkel’s Concert in Central Park raised around $51,000 for Central Park. Benefit concerts by other musicians followed, and helped to raise awareness of the park’s state. With donations from the general public and with the help of wealthy benefactors, the park was restored during the 1980s and gained recognition as a major tourist attraction. As of 2011, donations still make up the majority of its budget. Today concerts and other benefits are regularly held on the Great Lawn.
lol, I knew that answer
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