By Ashley Zimmerman
By Dana Krangel
By John Hood
By Ashley Zimmerman
By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
By Steve Brennan
By Ashley Zimmerman
Hello! Who could this be?" The voice — that voice — at the other end of the line sounds remarkably reassuring, especially considering the fact that it belongs to one of the greatest singers and most revered musical icons of the past 50 years.
"It's Lee," I respond. "And who could this be?"
"I'm a tenor," Art Garfunkel demurs. "I'm a singer who had his vocal problems but now doesn't have them anymore."
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How fortunate. Indeed, a dialogue with Garfunkel — he of Simon and Garfunkel and a dozen solo albums — is one filled with animation, optimism, and enthusiasm, much of it about topics having nothing to do with music.
Over the course of our conversation, we chat about his love for reading ("I read a million books. I go from book to book, and I've been doing it for 50 years, so I get a little facile in terms of my words and my choices."), his lack of love for social media ("It's all about theft. Napster is the bane of my existence, and so is Facebook. They're about stealing people's music and stealing people's faces and making hay while the sun shines at the expense of people like me. 'Privacy' is a forgotten word. And so is 'discretion.' "), international tensions ("Anything can get out of hand. We have all these flash points that we think are under control."), and Johnny Carson ("He was a good guy, but like any performer, he was cranked up. Performers are actors. They simulate a certain kind of person, but who they are — to their friends and their wives, is a whole other thing.") before discussing the main reason for our interview — what's prompted him to go back on tour now in 2014.
"What made me not tour?" he corrects me. After bowing out for most of the '80s due to depression brought on by his previous wife's suicide, he returned to the road a decade later until that aforementioned throat malady in 2010 threatened to halt his singing career forever. "I really did not know what caused it," he recalls. "It came after I ate a lobster at the Palm Restaurant. I choked on it, and then right after that, I started feeling a sickening of one of my vocal cords. I was tragically affected, and that was awful. So you take a rest and you stop your work, and then gradually you start singing with your iPod in the street... singing in unison with James Taylor and Chet Baker, and then you get back to the nerves about being onstage and all of that. So in 2013, I was at the stage of, 'Well, let's try this in front of people. I'm going to be a little 15-year-old with nervous energy,' because it's an exposed profession, being a singer. You say to folks, 'Come buy my tickets; I'm going to sing for you.' Except I can't sing. And yet you have to go through something. You must take on the adrenaline and the fear and the vulnerability just to mend. And that's a big part of the mending process, just to do it and forge ahead."
And he has, but one has to wonder about the past as well. Does it remain front and center? Is Garfunkel forever in the grip of Simon and...?
"I don't feel that way at all," he counters. "I feel that everything I'm doing now surpasses everything I've done before onstage by quite a notch. I'm not intimidated by my past. I'm surpassing my past. It excites me to be this larger stage performer than I used to be. It's true I can't give them 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' with the strings and the brass and that lovely production. But this isn't about the production. This is about a singer and his songs. It's me and a guitarist. It makes me feel like I'm..."
"Yes, 'evolving,' that's the word. I'm getting out into my own world as the years go by. I'm showing my love like never before."