The Tall Half Of Simon and Garfunkel Is on Road Again

August 19, 1998
Kansas City Star
By TIMOTHY FINN - Pop Music Writer

To some people, Art Garfunkel was the lanky sidekick, the tall guy who stood behind Paul Simon, providing the lead vocals or backup harmonies to Simon's urban folk-rock songs in the late 1960s.

Nearly 30 years after he and Simon released their final studio recording, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Garfunkel is on the road again, but these days he stands front and center, performing as a solo vocalist with his own four-piece band. His show Friday in Kansas City comes in the middle of a seven-month tour that will take Garfunkel to 10 countries by the end of the year.

From a publicist's office in Los Angeles recently, Garfunkel talked to The Star about his heyday with Simon, his new tour and his connection with his fans.

Q. You were right in the middle of several important cultural events during the late 1960s and early 1970s: You were half of a seminal folk-rock duo. And you either acted in or were associated with three highly acclaimed Mike Nichols movies: "The Graduate," "Catch-22" and "Carnal Knowledge." How important is all that to you in 1998?

A. I'm pleased and proud to be able to say that the work I did then reverberated hugely, that it touched so many people in so many ways. Yes, years later I still look back on it all, and it's still hard to grasp what was actually real and what wasn't.

But mostly I'm very grateful that my life has been so charmed. They were fabulous years. I'll never forget how lucky I was to be part of all that. And not just Simon & Garfunkel or the movies you mentioned, but the early explosion of the music business.

Having made my money in the 1960s has made my professional choices all about satisfying my soul; the financial aspect has been secondary. Well, I mean, if someone said, "If you and Simon do one more concert, we'll pay you $5 million," I'd obviously have to think about it, but ...

Q. Talk about the live show. What do you give your fans, and what do you think they expect from you?

A. I've really revitalized myself as a singer. I've gotten completely over my nerves. I'm not frightened anymore; in fact I'm very confident my audience will like the show.

I balance the show with some Simon & Garfunkel tunes plus some of my own stuff. I have a fabulous band playing with me: My guitarist is Eric Weissberg of "Dueling Banjos" fame, who is about as good as it gets on guitar. On keyboards is a New York studio ace named Bernard Warren, who plays both electric and an acoustic Fender Rhodes. My drummer is a young star named Tommy Igoe, who has performed with "The Lion King" stage production in New York. And finally there's Ted Baker on synthesizers.

As for what the fans expect: I get the sense that the 1990s aren't so different from fans in the '70s and '80s. Fans are looking to that star as a phenomenon with a fixed quality. They know me pretty well, I think. They know me as a guy who used to be in Simon & Garfunkel, but I also sense their consciousness of who I am getting more specific. Now they know I'm a thoughtful, sensitive guy who likes pretty things. They know I'm understated and underappreciated. So I have my cult.

Q. You're on the record as a pretty voracious reader. What is Art Garfunkel reading these days, and why does he read so much?

A. I'm reading Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man right now; he's absolutely great. Why do people read? I think people read because they don't want to be social. They want their minds to be active, but they want to be alone. They want to be engaged in an author who won't talk back to them or scold them. It's ideal for the social coward.

I read because my metabolism downshifts. I have a feeling you digest your food better, that your system purrs, when you read. I read because it's not so passive as television. Reading has an active quality; it requires you to apply your mind to get something in return.