Art Garfunkel strikes a balance between Simon and solo years

November 19, 1999
Louisville Courier Journal

Although he has spent 30 years singing the songs he made famous as the more vocally gifted half of Simon and Garfunkel, Art Garfunkel has no problem keeping performances fresh.

"When I hear the intro to 'Bridge Over Troubled Water,' I approach the mike with the attitude that here comes the best version of this song I've ever done," Garfunkel said by phone last week from his home in Manhattan.

"There are enough variables to make the present very rich and unknown," he explained. "If the first couple of lines come out with beauty and feeling, just the way I want, I'm going to be in love with the song all over again."

Garfunkel and Paul Simon split up in 1970, but they reunited for a concert in New York's Central Park in 1981, followed by a world tour in 1983. And they performed together for a charity benefit in 1992.

As a solo artist, Garfunkel has released a string of albums since 1973. His most recent is "Across America," recorded in 1996 to commemorate his walk across the United States, which he began in 1984 and completed in 40 installments.

"I walked through Louisville in the late '80s," he recalled. "I went through Frankfort, then came through your town, then skimmed the bottom of Indiana on my way to St. Louis. I liked Louisville. The waterfront looked nice, although it needed some development."

When he performs at the Louisville Palace tomorrow night for a Bank One Louisville Pops concert, audience members can expect classic Simon and Garfunkel tunes as well as material drawn from Garfunkel's solo albums.

Told that he appears to have found a nice balance in which he can honor his past without living in it, Garfunkel replied that he appreciates the comment.

"I sometimes have a hard time being understood that way," he said. "I've been accused of living too much in the past because I still perform songs such as 'Mrs. Robinson' and 'Sounds of Silence.' But I don't want to disappoint people who love those songs, and I've always had a great time singing 'Scarborough Fair' and all of those great songs.

"Of course, other people are only interested in the old days. I try to be realistic about the fact that Simon and Garfunkel is the door that brought me into public consciousness, and we spent a lot of time getting people to be interested in that music.

"But that was 30 years ago, and I've made 11 albums since then. People know you by your hits, but they don't know how many times you got up to bat to take a good swing. I've been swinging for years and I'm very proud of my solo albums. So it's a matter of proportion."

In 1987, a collection of his poetry was published under the title "Still Water." (The book is out of print, but the poems are on Garfunkel's Web site.) In a poem written shortly after the 1983 Simon and Garfunkel reunion tour, Garfunkel declared that it was time to "Burn the Bridge."

"Even though I wrote that, I never felt the need to deny the past," he said. "Sometimes in life you lose your balance and your image of who you think you are. But when you put the pieces back you feel more knowing of yourself, and humbler."