SIMON and Garfunkel have once again built a bridge over their troubled waters. The on-again, off-again musical partners are in the midst of a 40-date reunion tour that brings them to San Jose's HP Pavilion Tuesday and Wednesday and to the Oakland Arena on Thursday.
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel have known each other since they were 11-year-olds in Queens.
"We started to sing when we were 13, and we started to argue when we were 14," Simon told the opening-night audience last month in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
After only five studio albums (plus the soundtrack to "The Graduate") released between 1964 and 1970 and an astonishing stream of hits that included "Mrs. Robinson," "The Sound of Silence" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Simon and Garfunkel went their separate ways.
-By Chad Jones
Each embarked on solo careers. Garfunkel has acted in movies like "Catch-22" and "Carnal Knowledge," released about a dozen albums and had a few hits such as "All I Know" and "A Heart in New York."
Simon's one attempt at a movie, 1980's "One-Trick Pony," tanked, but his musical projects were enormously successful. Ubiquitous hits like "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" and "Still Crazy After All These Years" led up to the cultural phenomenon known as "Graceland."
That landmark 1986 exploration of South African music captured Grammys for both album of the year and record of the year.
"Clearly Paul is the one who has proven himself to be a tre-
mendous talent in the area of songwriting, craftsmanship and production," says Alameda native Ben Fong-Torres, a writer and editor for Rolling Stone from 1968 to 1971 who now lives in San Francisco.
"Art found his own niche in soft rock and adult contemporary, but Paul is the more significant musical figure," says Fong-Torres, 58, who has interviewed both musicians over the years. "I think that's why Paul was itchy to move on. It was the time of singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Carole King getting acclaim as themselves. In a duo or a group, you don't get full credit, and I can see that beginning to gnaw at you.
"I'm just glad that over the years they've come to understand that what they have together is truly significant and valuable and loved. Despite their differences, they manage to stick together."
Since their break-up in 1970, Simon and Garfunkel have had occasional reunions. They recorded the song "My Little Town" in 1975 and performed a hugely successful -- if emotionally icy -- concert in New York's Central Park in 1981. There were even a few shows as recently as 1993.
The friendship has ruptured and re-formed many times over the years. The latest reconciliation occurred in February when the duo opened the Grammy Awards with "The Sound of Silence."
"It was the Grammys that forced (the friendship) out of burial," Garfunkel said at a September press conference announcing the tour.
"Forgive, forget, move on. It's not like you live forever in life," Simon said at the same conference.
Since the tour began last month, Simon has celebrated his 62nd birthday. Garfunkel turns 62 at Wednesday's San Jose show.
There's a line from Simon's song "Old Friends" that Ira Stoler, a 55-year-old fan from San Carlos, finds particularly resonant: "Can you imagine us years from today/Sharing a park bench quietly/How terribly strange to be 70."
"I just think, my God, they're both really almost 70!" Stoler says.
Growing up in Brooklyn, Stoler recalls being drawn to Simon and Garfunkel because they were local guys from Queens who sounded better than just about anybody else.
"They were class musicians," Stoler says. "Garfunkel's voice is just outstanding, and the quality of their harmony is attractive. Simon's lyrics really captured that time."
Although he still loves all the old Simon and Garfunkel albums -- he always has one of the duo's CDs in his car -- Stoler says he didn't pay too much attention to the solo projects.
"I read this somewhere and I completely agree," he says. "However good Art's voice is, however talented Paul is as a songwriter and performer, there's no question that they're better together than they are apart."
Stoler will be attending Tuesday's San Jose concert. He had intended to buy tickets but forgot about the show until it was too late and only obstructed view seats were available.
Then his son Brian gave him two tickets.
"It's the best birthday present I ever got," Stoler says.
Like so many of the other middle-age fans who will flock to Oakland and San Jose, Stoler has a tremendous sentimental attachment to the music of his youth and can't get through a concert or listen seriously to an old Simon and Garfunkel album without getting teary eyed.
"It's not a feeling of loss for my youth," Stoler explains. "It's more like the concept of a simple message as opposed to a complex message. Simon and Garfunkel were making music in a tumultuous time in the late'60s and early'70s. The message coming from these guys and the way they portrayed the time was transparent.
"We don't have that transparency today. Everything is so complicated in the world we live in today. The stress of that complexity is something that listening to the old music takes away from me. It's almost therapeutic."
There has been some mumbling that the new tour will result in a new Simon and Garfunkel album. Of course the duo may be feuding again in a few months, so there are no promises.
Having toured together every 10 years or so, one thing is clear: This will likely be their final tour.
Says Fong-Torres: "Imagine these two guys touring in 20 years. That really would be the sound of silence."