Spanning Decades Is The Art Of Being Garfunkel

The Providence Journal
July 16, 1998
By Andy Smith- Journal Pop Music Writer

Art Garfunkel is still best known from his years as half of Simon & Garfunkel, where his angelic tenor was paired with Paul Simon's more earthly singing. Garfunkel, who comes to the Warwick Musical Theatre Sunday night, still sings those S&G songs, along with material from his solo albums. (1998 marks Garfunkel's 25th year as a solo artist.)

"It would be coy of me to ignore them," he said in a phone interview. "They're great songs, I've never gotten tired of doing them."

And he'll occasionally talk about Simon & Garfunkel when he's on stage:

"I know they're curious about that. I'm not, I'm actually tired of it, but I recognize that it's the door I came in through for most people, and that's okay."

Simon & Garfunkel split after Bridge Over Troubled Water in 1970, then re-formed in 1982 for a massive concert in Central Park in New York City. But a reunion studio album failed to materialize as planned, eventually becoming Simon's Hearts & Bones.

Garfunkel said he hasn't been in touch with his old partner recently - both men, he said, are busy with their own families and careers.

Speaking of family, Garfunkel's wife, Kim Cermak Garfunkel, and their 7 1/2 year-old son, James, both sing with him in concert. "He's got a good voice with good pitch, or he'd never be singing in public," Garfunkel said of his son.

James inspired Garfunkel's 1997 album Songs from a Parent to a Child, which includes renditions of tunes from Marvin Gaye, Cat Stevens, Lovin' Spoonful, James Taylor and the Beatles. Although appropriate for children, Garfunkel said this is not a patronizing, dumbed-down record.

"There's not a lot of discord in there, none of those stabbing guitars. It's artful, very rich," Garfunkel said. "It's what I would offer a grownup, except I have avoided songs about adult relationships."

Garfunkel said he is about to start work on a new record - for grownups - but he's reluctant to say too much about it before it's finished.

He is clear about what he looks for in a song:

"Goosebumps. Poignancy. A melody that moves you. Chord changes that are not cliches, that we haven't heard before, and an opening that's not hackneyed . . . "

Along with Simon, he admires Randy Newman, Jimmy Webb, Peter Gabriel and Sting, among others, for writing that sort of song.

And Art Garfunkel?

"Well, I don't know . . . mostly prose poems are what I write," he said. (Garfunkel recited a very brief one: "Write the poem out loud/ Authorize the heart/ Burn the bridge/ Be the work of art.")

Along with his music, Garfunkel has done some film acting, notably in Catch-22, Carnal Knowledge, Bad Timing and Boxing Helena.

Garfunkel said he'd like to do more - if he can find the time.

"My work life is centered around touring at the moment. I didn't do that much touring in the '70s and '80s, so I feel young about it, I feel very alive up there," he said.

"And you can't do it all. But I love that stuff (acting). I have a feeling there will be something happening there in the next year."

Considering the natural sweetness of his voice, Garfunkel has appeared in some dark movies.

"Well, I supplied a lot of pinks and oranges and crimson to the group (Simon & Garfunkel), so I thought maybe it was time to balance it out, show some purples and greys. So I do some dark and weird things in films," Garfunkel said.

In the late '80s Garfunkel decided to walk across America - in installments - a trek that ended with a concert at Ellis Island, where Garfunkel's family first landed in this country. Now, Garfunkel said, he is walking across Europe, starting in Ireland.

Why walk?

"Well, what should I be doing?" Garfunkel responded. "I want to live longer, I love to travel . . . and I'm a New Yorker, and New York is claustrophobic, we don't get to see a lot of space."

Garfunkel said everyone else walks inside, on a treadmill, and watches CNN. He's outside, and he sings as he walks.

All that exercise must be good for his singing - the 55-year-old Garfunkel said his voice is in fine shape.

"I just did a 21 shows in Europe, and I had plenty of volume and stamina," he said. "I still sing Bridge in the same key I did when I first did it."