May 9, 2004
By MaryAnn Kromer
Talking to Art Garfunkel on the phone was like making conversation with a friend. If the singer is as pleasant on the stage, his show promises to be a very enjoyable experience.
Garfunkel wondered if Tiffin was anywhere near Findlay, Ohio. It seems he had spent summer vacations in Findlay as a youth. He talked about going to the drive-in movie theater there. The young "Artie," as he calls himself, probably never imagined he would be back this way as a performer in 2004. On Saturday, he will be at the Ritz Theatre for an 8 p.m. show.
"It will be half Simon and Garfunkel and half Artie Garfunkel. I will bring my four-piece band and the show will be about an hour and a half," the singer said. In the years since those summers in Findlay, Garfunkel has traveled far and accomplished much. His web site, artgarfunkel.com, includes a wealth of information about his career, both with and without Paul Simon.
The two grew up together in the 1950s as neighbors in Queens, N.Y., and appeared on "American Bandstand" as high school seniors. Garfunkel went on to earn a bachelor's degree in art history at Columbia College and a master's degree in mathematics at Columbia University.
In 1962, the pair crossed paths again and got back together. Simon and Garfunkel recorded several classic albums between 1964 and 1970. They won two Grammy awards in 1968 and three in 1970. After the split with Simon, Garfunkel launched his solo career in 1973. He invited Simon and singers such as Amy Grant and James Taylor to join him on some of his albums.
The singer jokingly compares himself to "a speckled salmon," swimming upstream against the critics. For the most part, critics have been kind and the artistic journey has been interesting. The trip has included acting, traveling, writing poetry, composing and performing music.
Garfunkel's shows and recordings include the songs of others, as well as his own, and old songs as well as new ones. Many of his original compositions were inspired by his long-distance walking tours in Japan and "across America," which became the title of an album in the late 1990s. Now, the artist is walking across Europe "in installments."
"I started about five years ago. It took about eight days to walk to the middle of Ireland. Then I went into Wales and continued through England. I never went to London, but I crossed the English Channel and went down the coast of Normandy," Garfunkel said. "Europe is beautiful."
Not that America isn't, but the artist bemoans "how uninspired America is." Garfunkel once told an interviewer that he tries "to notice the absence of things" so that they don't "slip away." He was impressed with the description of the Ritz as one of those pieces of "the world as it used to be." He blames capitalism and its "business first" attitude that is so quick to raze the old and build new.
But new also can be good, as Garfunkel discovered with his most recently recorded CD, "Everything Waits to Be Noticed." Released in 2002, the album features songs that came out of the singer's collection of prose poetry, "Still Water," published in 1989. The recording also features Maia Sharp and Buddy Mondlock performing with Garfunkel.
"Billy Mann, my producer, knew me very well and was very sympathetic to me. He had a dream to extend Artie's cause. He got me to come to Nashville and paired me with Maia and Buddy, two wonderful young artists. It was Billy's vision," Garfunkel said.
The trio did a U.S. tour to promote the album, on EMI/Manhattan Records. Garfunkel wrote six of the tracks on the CD, which received critical acclaim. Then in 2003, Garfunkel was back with his school chum, Paul Simon for the Old Friends 2003 Tour.
Earlier this year, the pair received the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award and gave a touching performance together on the Grammy Awards television broadcast. This June and July, Simon and Garfunkel will tour numerous U.S. cities and move on to England, Germany and Italy this fall. "We will finish the tour in Rome, outside the Coliseum," Garfunkel said. The stops in Italy will serve as a preview for the next leg of Garfunkel's European walk. He will begin where he left off, in the Alps along the border of France and Italy. Garfunkel said the walking turns his mind to writing, giving him new material for poems and songs.
The singer also values time with his wife Kim and son James, age 13. Both have joined Art on stage for numerous performances. The artist describes his marriage as "18 wonderful years."
"We've had a few storms but we've also had a ton of sunshine. I love this raising my son stuff. I hover over his adolescence. I want him to have enough quiet to hear his own loveliness," Garfunkel said. "My wife is a singer, too, but she's the theatrical, emotive type. I think it makes a rich human being out of my son."