Backstage: Art Garfunkel

Source: Yale Daily News
Published: Oct 23, 2009
Author: Ben Beitler

Art Garfunkel visited Yale for a Master’s Tea on Wednesday afternoon. The beloved singer, one half of Simon and Garfunkel (as in “So here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson…”), fielded questions about his most successful songs, his artistic relationship with Paul, and his favorite “guilty pleasures.” The Tea had been very well-attended, with a line for seats stretching out the Swing Space door outside the office, fans mingled and waited for autographs.

Scene tried to interview the legendary singer — unfortunately, he was in quite a rush. Sitting in the Swing Space Master’s Office, we managed to fire off a couple of questions. Morse College Master Frank Keil looked on.

Scene: Did you expect the audience to be overflowing like that?

Art Garfunkel: No, I was very pleasantly surprised. I never know how well they know me or how much they’re curious about me. I assume I’m the … the unknown quiet guy behind Paul Simon. I don’t get to fill out what my nature is … very often. So I was very pleased that they cared.

Scene: Have you been to Yale before?

Art Garfunkel: Yeah, a couple of times.

Scene: When was the last time?

Art Garfunkel: Quite a while ago … I used to see a shrink in New Haven. I had a house in northern Connecticut, and I would come and see the psychiatrist a couple of times a week in New Haven. For half a year…

Scene: When you were at Columbia, you did a cappella?

Art Garfunkel: Kingsmen!

Scene: Yes!

Art Garfunkel: I loved it a lot. Here’s what I loved most of all: you learned as a tenor singer to find those notes that make the chords work — but they sound awful! When you follow your harmony — Are you a singer? No? — when you follow your part, it’s ugly as hell. But, each moment, it’s making the chord work, it’s that in-between note. It develops your singer’s chops. And I’ve used it so much with Simon and Garfunkel.

Scene: Do you still listen to a cappella?

[Frank Keil, Master of Morse College and host of Wednesday’s Tea, enters the office with his wife, Kristi Lockhart, and son, Martin Keil ’12].

Master Frank Keil: [introducing his son] This is our son!

Art Garfunkel: Derek, is it you?

Martin Keil ’12: Oh, no I’m the youngest, I’m still at Yale.

Kristi Lockhart: This is Martin, our youngest.

Art Garfunkel: Ohhh.

Marty Keil: Hello, how are you?

Art Garfunkel: Hi Marty. You look like a fine guy. Something went very right with you, Martin.

Marty Keil: Oh, thanks…

Kristi Lockhart: He has his girlfriend here, too!

Art Garfunkel: You should be very proud of such an upright guy. [Laughter, Martin Keil and Lockhart leave]. Um, what were we saying?

Scene: I just asked if you still listened to a cappella at all…

Art Garfunkel: That’s a funny question. No, I don’t. There’s a group, Singers Unlimited out of California — they’re great. Of course the greatest of them all ever, I think, is the Hi-Lo’s. Do you know that group? You should hear the Hi-Lo’s. That’s the greatest a cappella group.

Scene: What’s the last thing you listened to?

Art Garfunkel: The last thing I listened to? The last thing I listened to was my own record of “Two Sleepy People,” because I have to sing it Monday night in a Frank Lesser gala. And I’ve just been listening to [James Taylor’s] “Hourglass” because there’s a song on it that James does, “Gaia,” that I adore, and it gets emotionally going as a singer, so it’s good warm-up stuff.

Scene: Seeing that you were part of a great artistic pair, we came up with some pairs, some artistic pairs, and we were wondering if you might choose individuals from each pair…

Frank Keil: We just have a couple of minutes. Just do a couple of these.

Art Garfunkel: “Choose” meaning the one I identify with? That I feel more affinity with?

Scene: However you feel…

Art Garfunkel: When you choose one of the two, what are you choosing? I like that one better?

Scene: Whatever criteria you want to use…

Art Garfunkel: That’s pretty open…

Scene: Coleridge or Wordsworth?!


Art Garfunkel: I don’t know.

Scene: We can drop it.

Frank Keil: I think this next one has to be the last question.

Scene: Who are your favorite Ivy League musicians of years past?

Art Garfunkel: Who’s on the list? Who are the musicians who have come out of our eight schools?

Frank Keil: Bonnie Raitt was at Harvard.

Scene: Cole Porter.

Art Garfunkel: I’m not a Cole Porter fan but I am a Bonnie Raitt fan. I always find Cole Porter cerebral but missing melody. Clever but dry. Bonnie Raitt’s great. What school did she go to?

Frank Keil: She went to Radcliffe. I think we have to end…

[At this point Master Keil pulls out an old photograph of a very young Mr. Garfunkel. The pictures was taken while Garfunkel was a counselor at a New York summer camp. Keil shows it to. Garfunkel]

Frank Keil: I didn’t say you’d sign this, but this lady out there said you were her camp counselor for two years? Do you recognize this?

Art Garfunkel: [Laughs] Yes, I do. 19… 60. I was about 19 or 20 then. What a wholesome kid!

Frank Keil: Will you sign it?

Art Garfunkel: Sure, sure…