Although Art Garfunkel has been America’s unofficial troubadour for more than 50 years, he has no plans to slow down.
“I feel very young, if you want to know the truth. I’m here to say that the age thing sometimes goes backwards,” says Garfunkel, 77. “You get younger and younger if you face the fear of exposure.”
Exposure is one thing Garfunkel has never lacked. His start in music came naturally. “I was 5 years old. I was already singing to myself in the alleyway between the brick buildings of my neighborhood in Queens,” he shares. “I was hearing that I had a gift, and it was fun to warble the vocal chords, and I soon found that echo is the key. That was a big friend to my singing, and that combination made me feel I was really good at this. So, what got me started is reverb, baby.”
Garfunkel and his partner, Paul Simon, grew up and attended school together in Queens, making music in a basement. Initially naming their duo Tom & Jerry in 1957, they broke into the music world with their first hit song, “Hey Schoolgirl,” landing a guest appearance on TV’s American Bandstand as high school seniors. They changed their name to Simon & Garfunkel in 1963, when folk music was at its peak.
Simon & Garfunkel quickly scored record deals, dominating radio with hit folksy pop songs like “The Sound of Silence,” “Scarborough Fair/Canticle,” “Cecilia,” “Homeward Bound,” “Mrs. Robinson,” and the iconic Bridge Over Troubled Water, which won six Grammys and remains among the bestselling records ever.
After Simon & Garfunkel broke up in 1970, Garfunkel began an illustrious solo career, acting in movies with his friend, director Mike Nichols, having previously collaborated on The Graduate soundtrack. He was cast in Nichols’ films Catch-22 and Carnal Knowledge, as well as other movies, wrote poetry, and walked across America, but music remained his first love. As a solo artist, he released his first of 12 albums, Angel Clare, in 1973, and still delights in performing today.
Garfunkel will bring his singular voice to the Tarrytown Music Hall on August 10 for a roughly 80-minute musical performance, interspersed with readings from his collection of musings in his 2017 book, What Is It All but Luminous: Notes from an Underground Man.
“It’s 70 percent singing of songs and 30 percent reading these things I’ve been writing,” he says of the show, which will include Simon & Garfunkel hits, as well as selections from his solo albums. This stripped-down concert will feature Garfunkel backed only by a guitar player, Tab Laven, and Paul Beard on piano. “That’s all,” notes Garfunkel, “less is more.”
Given the volume of material at his disposal, Garfunkel has the luxury of structuring the show on the fly. “You finish a song, and you imagine you’re the audience, and you go: What wants to come next? Should we give them a big fat hit right now? Is it time to make the rhythm jump a little?” he says. “Fortunately, I have a lot of hits to deal with that. My audience is older; they know ‘Scarborough Fair,’ and they want to hear it.”
Though he and Simon parted ways a lifetime ago, Garfunkel retains a fondness for his iconic duo. Asked what song he is most proud of, he immediately cites “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” “It’s sung well, and it’s produced beautifully,” he says.
Garfunkel also positively lights up talking about his family. “I’m proud of my family; they’re beauties.” He and his wife, Kathryn Luce Garfunkel, an actor-singer, have two sons James, 28, and Beau, 13, both musically talented as a singer and piano player, respectively.
Garfunkel’s world was shaken when he lost his voice in 2010 to what doctors called vocal-cord paresis (or partial paralysis), which took an agonizing four years to fully recover from. “It was very hard to know who I was if not a singer,” he recalls. “It really threw me into a bad place.” Garfunkel never accepted his singing career was over, though. “I was always dedicated, and you know, you have patience. You try and you weep over efforts made that are still not working, and it’s a cracking, froggy sound.”
Having accomplished so much, one wonders if Garfunkel is content, his bucket-list items all ticked off. Hardly. “I have not let it rip. There are places I’ve not been to. I find traveling is really bulky and getting tough, but I still have great curiosity to live and to burn with my curiosity,” shares Garfunkel. “So it’s a contradiction — just when it’s tougher is when I most want to be connected to the world.”