Xochitl Pena, The Desert Sun
At a young age, Art Garfunkel knew he had a special gift. At about age 5 or 6, he would seek out private stairwells or tiled bathrooms, and with no one around belt out the kind of songs that give you goosebumps. “I would think to myself this is not ordinary. This is a lucky gift from God,” he told The Desert Sun on Wednesday from his home in New York City.
But, it wasn’t until he was 24-years-old and “The Sound of Silence” became a hit in 1965 did he realize he could make singing a career. “Kids are plagued with the concept of ‘What is my career? What should I major in in college? How will I make a living?’ This is a lot of pressure,” Garfunkel said. “And I was like anybody. Only at age 24 when “The Sound of Silence” hit real big on the charts did I say ‘Well it’s a thrill to win the heart of the prettiest girl, to have the top of the charts, to make all this money and to finally be released of the pressure of what will I do’.”
His partner in music at the time was Paul Simon, his childhood friend. Together they became iconic folk rock figures and went on to win 10 Grammies and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. The duo broke up around 1970, but have since reunited many times for concerts and special occasions.
Garfunkel, who turned 73 on Thursday, and arguably has one of the most melodious voices in the business, will bring his solo show to Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Saturday. “I’m going to show that the voice is back. For a couple of years I lost the voice, now it’s back. So it’s a thrill to be able to sing again, ” he said referring to vocal cord issues he experienced that caused him to take a break from performing. He said he has no idea what caused his stiff and swollen left cord, but wasn’t able to get the symmetry and sensitivity needed for his melodies. “I know I did a tour with my ex-partner some years ago prior to the loosing of the voice. We had to sing real loud to play arenas … I think maybe that loud singing cost me, I don’t know truly what it was,” Garfunkel said.
He said his Saturday show will be about equal parts Simon & Garfunkel hits and equal parts solo "Artie Garfunkel." “I am not going to be coy and leave out the obvious, I will do “Homeward Bound” and I will do “Scarborough (Fair)” and there will be “The Sound of Silence.” I think it would be coy if I left those out. But I will do songs you wouldn’t have expected me to do, Randy Newman and different things,” he said.
Fans will also get a sneak peak from his autobiography – something he’s been working on for a while and is almost complete. While Garfunkel was able to share specific elements of his show, he was at a loss for words in describing the experience. “I think this is tough what we’re doing. We are using words in an interview to describe things that don’t take to words in an interview,” he said. “You’ve got to be there.” Garfunkel recited an often used quote to sum up his dilemma: “Talking about music is the same thing as dancing about architecture. Your mind goes, ‘I don’t know how to dance about architecture’. I know, I don’t know how to talk about music.” “Music is an experience that you take in with your ears and it goes to your belly and your heart and your mind and your dance center which is your hips, you groove to it. Now how do you use words to describe all that stuff? You don’t’.”
One thing is clear though, Garfunkel is passionate about music, he loves what he does and as a self-proclaimed “rock n roll daddy” will deliver a show his true fans should enjoy. The musician who briefly pursued acting early in life and spent many years long-distance walking across America and Europe, admits to being a bit eccentric. “I’m different. I don’t swim with the tide. Whatever they’re all doing I do the opposite. I’ve always been that way. I’m a lefty. I’m a middle son of three kids. I have a taste to go the opposite direction from what normal people do,” he said.
And to showcase his fun side, Garfunkel took time out from his busy tour schedule to appear on The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon in late September. He sang The Weeknd’s “Can't Feel My Face” with Black Simon and Garfunkel, a recurring sketch on the show in which The Roots’ “Captain” Kirk Douglas and drummer Questlove sing contemporary hits in the style of Simon and Garfunkel. When Garfunkel first saw the sketch, he said he was surprised and flattered. “It’s a funny concept the Black Simon and Garfunkel. It’s very funny. They called and asked me if I would do it and I chuckled at the concept. I have a big smile on my face right now thinking about the whole thing,” he said.
Something else that makes him smile, is his 34-song retrospective called "The Singer" that he released in 2012. It includes solo songs and ones he performed with Simon. He said he put his heart and soul into it, only including those songs with his best vocal work. “Every vocal line is good,” he said. “When I die, if there’s God and he says to me ‘What did you do on earth while you were alive?’ – I will show him The Singer.”