Sept-19-1981: Simon & Garfunkle’s Historic Night in the Park

As financially strapped New York sought revenue to renovate or maintain the decaying Central Park, the Parks Commissioner came up with the idea of raising money through merchandising and television rights to open-air concerts.  The City teamed up with HBO and selected a duo from Kew Gardens to play to the hometown crowd in only their third appearance together since their breakup in 1970.

From Wikipedia:

The concert took place on Saturday, September 19, 1981, on the Great Lawn, the central open space of Central Park. The first spectators, many carrying chairs or picnic blankets, arrived at daybreak to secure a good spot. The Parks Department originally expected about 300,000 attendees. Although rain fell throughout the day and continued until the start of the concert,an estimated 500,000 audience members made this the seventh-largest concert attendance on record in the United States.

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One thought on “Sept-19-1981: Simon & Garfunkle’s Historic Night in the Park

  1. The concert remains one of the most notable Central Park concerts, although two years later Diana Ross gained attention by packing the park and battling the elements.

    From Huffington Post’s Diana Ross: Live in Central Park… Before and After the Storm

    Shortly after 6 p.m., Diana Ross slinked on the stage and joined the Bernice Johnson Dancers, a dance troupe from Harlem she had seen perform and decided she wanted for her opening. As Ross completed the African tribal-dance choreography by Michael Peters, she stripped off her multi-colored Issey Miyaki coat, revealing a studded, orange bodysuit, ran to the microphone and yelled, “Hello, New York!” Over 450,000 people standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the 13-acre Great Lawn roared as they watched Ross struggle to calm her mane, which the wind was blowing straight toward her face and into the microphone. As Ross was taking the audience on a musical journey, a dark cloud made its way into Central Park. Then, at 6:25 p.m., the first raindrops began splattering the stage. Determined to defy the elements, Ross cried out, “It took me a lifetime to get here, and I’m not going anywhere.” In between singing, she calmed the crowd and encouraged those who wanted to leave to do so slowly. But it soon became clear that this was one show that could not go on. Months of planning were washed away.. . .

    By 6:55 p.m., it became apparent to Ross that the show had to stop for everyone’s safety. On the spur of the moment, without any confirmation from officials, she said to the audience, “We’ll do it again tomorrow.” Ross remained on stage for quite some time because she was afraid that if she left, the lights would go out and concert-goers wouldn’t be able to leave the park safely.

    That night 2.26 inches of rain fell, two thirds of the month’s total precipitation. Winds up to 50 m.p.h. were reported, and electrical power was disrupted for about 40,000 homes throughout the metropolitan area during the storm. . . .

    The following morning Ross’ concert made the front page of papers all over the world.

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