Though Art Garfunkel’s best-known work is 40 years old, he’s still dedicated to his work
January 19, 2007
By Jon Ferguson
Though Art Garfunkel has lived his life fully for 65 years, he understands that most people date his existence from 1964 to 1970. Those are the years he worked with songwriter Paul Simon as one half of the seminal duo Simon & Garfunkel. During that time, the two men recorded just five albums but created one of the most beloved and enduring catalogs in the history of pop music.
Garfunkel, who will perform Thursday night at American Music Theatre in East Lampster Township, has recorded 12 albums during the past 37 years. Few, however, are likely to remember any of the songs from those albums - but everybody knows it was Garfunkel who sang on "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
"Those five albums are really very well-loved and people play them to this day, and we're the ones who came up with it, " Garfunkel said during a telephone interview from an Arizona hotel room. "They embrace us as if we gave them something they can really use on tough nights. People play our stuff as solace."
Garfunkel, a forward-thinking individual, said he long ago stopped worrying about those who believe his creative life ended when he and Simon parted ways. "I'm just thrilled that I achieved so much connection with people,"he said. "If I haven't gotten quite that connection since then, I'm not going to fuss about it."
Garfunkel will release a new album, "Some Enchanted Evening," on January 30. As the title suggests, it is an album of standards, including songs by the Gershwins, Johnny Mercer, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Antonio Carlos Jobim. His decision to record standards continues a trend among singers of his generation that has been most successfully exploited by Rod Stewart, who revived his career by going this route. "I don't think I'm a copy and yet I recognize that Rod Stewart warmed up the receptivity for this type of thing," Garfunkel said. "I probably shouldn't think that way. Good is good."
For the project, Garfunkel renewed his partnership with producer Richard Perry. Perry and Garfunkel last teamed up in 1975 for the album "Breakaway," which yielded the hit single I Only Have Eyes for You."
The material generally suits Garfunkel's voice and the album has a quiet, hushed tone that highlights the lushness of the melodies and the clarity of the vocals. The album also sounds surprisingly youthful, especially on stellar versions of "Let's Fall in Love" and "Life Is But a Dream," on which Garfunkel hits an impossibly high note. "It's a trick in the back of the throat, where you just kick into a falsetto sound, and if it's the right key, you can execute it," he said. "It didn't drive me crazy to get that note, but it was a reach and a bit of a struggle."
One of the problems in releasing a new album, Garfunkel said, is it means he has to drop some songs from his normal concert repertoire, which consists of 17 to 20 tunes, if he wants to include material from "Some Enchanted Evening." He said he currently is singing just two songs from the new album (the title cut and "Someone to Watch Over Me") and the rest of the concert is divided between Paul Simon songs and his solo material. The Simon songs include "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "The Boxer," "Kathy's Song," "Cecelia" and "American Tune."
"Lately I don't do "Mrs. Robinson," he said "That's daring. Crowds love "Mrs. Robinson." It's one of my favorites to do, but I miss Paul on that one. I miss the great guitar playing on that one."
Garfunkel and Simon do reunite for tours, the last time in 2003 and 2004. Garfunkel said no tours are on the horizon, but sometimes all it takes is a phone call.
At any rate, Garfunkel plans to keep singing - with or without Simon - as long as he is able. "I leave my age, which is getting up there now, when I'm in front of the mic," he said. "I chase after the beauty of the line, what I want to do with my vocal cords and how I want to express those words."
"That pursuit kind of leaves the world of aging and enters into the world of music."