Interview with Art Garfunkel
August 7, 1998
On a recent afternoon in his Upper East Side home overlooking New York's Central Park, Art Garfunkel seemed filled with answers, happy, self-effacing and at peace. He's figured out what he loves best:
"Now I feel when the spotlight is on me, that's where it belongs. I love to sing, and I'm an entertainer. I began to realize that it's tough to sell records like I used to, but I don't like a company marketing department researching my tastes. I decided that I want to make a direct connection to my people, and that took me to the stage, where people are going to eat it up and have a happy time."
Tonight, Garfunkel brings his show to Atlanta's Chastain Park Amphitheater, a place he calls "a lovely venue" and one where he likes "to be onstage and watch the sun go down and see all the little candles." The set list includes several Simon & Garfunkel hits, including "Bridge Over Troubled Water," as well as a dose of Garfunkel's middle-aged perspective on life, which he shared during a recent telephone interview.
What's the best thing about growing older?
You don't take certain pangs of self-consciousness so seriously. When we're younger, when we say the wrong thing we go through the floor. When you're older, you say, "So what. Next."
What has been your best career moment?
Clearly, September 19, 1981 stepping onstage in Central Park (with Paul Simon) in front of 500,000 people. There's been nothing like that.
Has your best decade been the '60s, '70s, '80s or '90s?
The '60s. That's where all the color was. We didn't quite serve the money god as much as we did later on. The '60s killed the '70s, '80s and '90s, all the exuberance and color.
Describe your home.
I live overlooking Central Park at the top of an apartment building. I have a floor in my house that is Mediterranean tile. There's alot of wood that's crafty and looks Swiss and very airy, like a cottage high up, very not New York. I have magnificent views and terraces. I'm speaking to you now from my office on the top floor, a little airy place where eagles perch. All my books are around me. I record every book I read, so I know I've read 768 books since I made "Catch 22" for Mike Nichols--all that time I had on my hands waiting to be called.
You've read 768 books and you write about each of them?
I'm a Columbia graduate and I realized at the end of school, "Ah, now I get it". I wanted to read books with very large, great ideas. I go to the library and feel embarrassed because I haven't read that. I've read "War and Peace" and Darwin's "The Origin of Species". I haven't been big on Steinbeck, but I've go to read "The Grapes of Wrath" before it's too late.
What do you write in?
I have a series of pages in little plastic folders, like what a lawyer would put important one-page letters in.
What is your opinion on the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky situation?
I try to avoid thinking about it. It would be bad taste. I like to leave a man's private life private. It makes me feel very bad to see gossip around a man's private life. We live in a very silly culture. It's a very tough time for people to think like I do. We have such a strong Mickey Mouse element in America. We love to feed off of nonsense. We portray that we have such a value system in America, but when there's a void, usually it's nonsense that fills in. Maybe it's the postwar affluence.
What 's the best gift you ever received?
My son, James. He's 7 1/2 years old. I know I created him with my wife, but she gave us my son.
Have you saved memorabilia from your career?
I'm looking over my right shoulder, and that's where I keep all of my career stuff. Yeah, I save all my stuff. I want my son, when he gets older, to know what I did. He's starting to get a clue. He'll say to me, "Daddy, does everyone in the world know who you are?" and I laugh and say, "About half".
Did you keep your vinyl and do you still play it?
Yes and yes. I've got my whole stack there. Vinyl kills tape and CD, in my opinion. Vinyl is where it's at.
I read that you love motorcycles, Harley or Honda?
It's the BMW you wanna ride. Jumping on a Harley is like jumping on a bandwagon.
You've always joked about your hair. Why?
Oh, I've never liked my hair. It's squiggly and long. The two things I like least about myself are the two things people know most about me: my hair and my name.
Before I die I want to...
Make sure the people I love know how much I love them. My key people know that there's love there. I could do better, but there are some tough customers.