Art Garfunkel Says He Might Have Been A Teacher Had He Never Met Paul Simon
By Jim Clash, Forbes.com October 2017
In Part 1 of this interview series with Art Garfunkel, Jim discussed much about his new autobiography, “What Is It All But Luminous” Here is Part 2 of the chat.
Jim Clash: You mention Paul Simon throughout the book. Any particular takeaway you want for the reader regarding you and Paul’s relationship?
Art Garfunkel: It’s very embarrassing to analyze your relationship with anybody. The word smarmy comes to mind. Get away from me, that’s too close for comfort. Never mind [laughs]. People are people. Relationships wax and wane. Marriages have good days, summer follows spring and spring winter every damn year. The ups and the downs are well-known stuff. Paul and I get tired of each other and we take a break. Then we have a dinner one night and he says, “I’ve got a new song I want you to hear.” He loves my opinion because I always tell the truth. He shows me the song and invariably I go, “It’s great. You are a wonderful songwriter, Mr. Simon.” And I start harmonizing to it. Then I see him get very happy. He knows the song will make a great record. I’m a singer and record producer. He hears my contributions, and it all falls into place the way it did for Mike Nichols with The Graduate and Mrs. Robinson. And the duo starts falling back together again. He shows me other songs he’s working on and I try to fix them, sing them, and before you know it we’re Simon & Garfunkel.
JC: Was there a song where you told him no?
AG: “Cuba Si, Nixon No,” was meant to be the 12th song on our Bridge Over Troubled Water album. I said to Paul, “I think the politics are too blatant. Cuba Si, Nixon No, is too simplistic a way of thinking and I won’t sign on to it.” My sense of politics is more sophisticated. Paul said, “You don’t get it, Art, that is the voice of the saboteur. ”Yes, but Paul the title comes out without an explanation.” He wasn’t happy not to do the song, but he had to respect me. Then is when we said the album will have one fewer song, and there you go.
JC: If you had never met Paul Simon, what would you be today? Would you have been a solo act, a mathematician, an architect – you studied the latter two at Columbia – what?
AG: Paul Simon was the engine of Simon & Garfunkel, the hustler. He’s the one who had the bravery and guts to go from Queens with his guitar into Manhattan to the Brill Building so we could knock on doors – he had all of this bravery at 15 years old to try to get us on a label. So Paul gets credit for being the businessman of Simon & Garfunkel. But I don’t know - I think I sing pretty good. I may have had a career without him, you never know. I would have made some demos, and I would have tried to interest record companies with my singing even without Paul. Would have they have bought it? When we split up in our teens, I tried to shop my stuff around and I got record contracts with different labels, but I didn’t have hits. So I’m not sure. It falls somewhere in between. I might have had a career as a solo. I would have been happy being a teacher. Architect, no. I went to architecture school for three years and it just didn’t happen. I didn’t have the gift. A mathematician? That’s a funny word. Mathematicians make their livings being employed by the Defense Department, or industry, and I would not have made it there. But a teacher, yes. I would have been comfortable being a teacher. I supported myself in high school by tutoring kids, and making decent money at it. That was my first instinct about what I could do to make money.
Jim Clash: But you taught formally once, too?
Art Garfunkel: The Litchfield Preparatory School. I had just gotten married and it was the early 70s. I had moved to Connecticut, bought a country house. It was post-Bridge Over Troubled Water. I was trying to turn my back on all of the ego that goes with show business. So it was my resting time, my dropping out. I tried teaching. I loved the curriculum, I loved the act of teaching. But, as a profession, it was small. I was very literal. I did a funny thing – I never related to the star trip in class. I walked in at the top of the season – September – I was their math teacher. I had on my suit and tie. And I started putting triangles on the blackboard. I never said, “Yes, I am the guy who gave you Sound of Silence.” When they were curious, I told them that on the last day of class, we’d do a Q&A and I’d answer questions about my show business life. But we were there for geometry.