Paul Simon will roll into Madison Square Garden tonight for the first of three NYC shows—which he's said are not just his final NYC shows ever, but his final shows ever. Simon, who released a new album made up of re-recordings of hidden gems in his catalogue, has vowed to hang up his guitar and retire from music following these performances, with Saturday's Flushing Meadows Corona Park show marking his (alleged) final live performance—and with rumors running wild that his old sparring partner Art Garfunkel will show up to at least one of the shows—it seems like as good a time as any to revisit the landmark 1981 Simon & Garfunkel Central Park show, The Concert In The Park.

The show took place on September 19th, 1981, and was a free benefit show (all proceeds went to the redevelopment and maintenance of the then-dilapidated park) with more than 500,000 people in attendance. The show had been proposed by Parks Commissioner Gordon Davis and influential concert promoter Ron Delsener—Simon & Garfunkel were chosen in part because they were from the city, having grown up and gone to school in Forest Hills, Queens—and was aired on HBO and released the next year as a hit album.

Outside of a few concert cameos, the two musicians had not performed a full show together at this point in over a decade since their acrimonious breakup. However, the offer came in at one of Simon's lowest points in his career, after the bomb of his autobiographical movie/album One-Trick Pony.

They performed a mix of classic Simon & Garfunkel songs as well as some solo Simon tunes (and at one new Garfunkel composition). Of course, they still hated one another, fighting about the presentation of the material and the show: "Well, the rehearsals were just miserable. Artie and I fought all the time," Simon later told Playboy. Photographer David Handschuh, who captured the show in black-and-white for the Associated Press, noted that "Simon wasn’t talking to Garfunkel" by the time of the reunion show.

But the show itself, which was introduced by then-Mayor Ed Koch on the Great Lawn, was a huge success far exceeding expectations. The duo performed 21 songs altogether, accompanied by an 11-piece band at times: ten by the duo, eight solo songs by Simon (including then-unreleased "The Late Great Johnny Ace"), one by Garfunkel, a cover of The Everly Brothers' "Wake Up Little Susie," and a medley incorporating "Maybellene."

"Simon and Garfunkel are back from what Paul Simon calls ''the boulevard of broken duos.,'" the NY Times wrote in a pre-concert preview of the show, in which the duo talked about how little fun they had performing together before they broke up. In their official write-up of the concert, they wrote that it was filled with "couples who had fallen in love to Simon and Garfunkel and who sat on blankets holding hands, and there were younger people whose only perspective of the 60's had been from the seat of a stroller."

In another contemporaneous review, the Times wrote that the duo "risked a lot by performing so many acoustically-based ballads in a chilly open-air setting. But their versions of 'Scarborough Fair,' 'April Come She Will,' and 'Homeward Bound,' among other softer songs, were beautifully articulated, in near-perfect harmony." That review concluded succinctly, "It was a wonderful concert." (It also took an "army of Parks Department laborers backed by convoys of garbage trucks, bulldozers and vacuum sweepers" to clean up the park after the show.)

Despite the fact that they couldn't stand each other, Simon & Garfunkel would go on to reunite several times over the next 30 years, including joint tours in 1982/1983, 1993, 2003/2004 and 2009/2010 in which the duo played Shea Stadium, MSG and other local venues. However, the only other time Simon performed in Central Park in 1991, Garfunkel was not invited (Chevy Chase was, however, for a "You Can Call Me Al" cameo). The album commemorating that show was released on Garfunkel's 50th birthday though.