Art Garfunkel Feelin' Groovy As Ever

May 21 , 1999
Chicago Sun Times
Written by Miriam Di Nunzio

Hard to believe, but Art Garfunkel has been a solo artist for 26 years now. Seems like just yesterday that he and Paul Simon couldn't miss with their incomparable harmonies and string of hit songs. You know the names: "Scarborough Fair," "Cecilia," "Mrs. Robinson," "Sounds of Silence," "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" (the album garnered six Grammy Awards in 1970) . . . too many to list. The duo practically owned the '60s when it came to folk rock. In 1970, it was all over as the two singers embarked on solo careers.

With 10 solo albums to his credit, starting with 1973's "Angel Clare" (with a breakaway hit single in Jimmy Webb's "All I Know"), Garfunkel has a veritable treasure trove of material to choose from in concert performances. He makes a rare Chicago area tour stop Saturday night at the Hemmens in Elgin.

"About 40 percent of the show will be Simon and Garfunkel," the singer says, phoning from a tour stop in Denver. "The game is really trying to show off as a singer front and center on my own. I have a real living room style with my audiences, I've been told. I want to talk to them. (Laughs.) I hope their focus is `good, he can still sing.' "

There's no question the tenor can sing. His last album, the Grammy-nominated "Songs From a Parent to a Child" in 1997, is vintage Garfunkel, smooth as silk. The album was a gift he says, for his 6- year-old son James. It was a total labor of love.

"I wanted an album that would be very accessible, very easy to listen to," he says. "The album is rich with melody and full of love for my family. When you make one of these albums and you make it as a gift, it gets the ego out of the way and you sing out of the deepest love. I had my son's picture in the vocal booth and I was just singing for his ultimate delight."

The album boasts some very heavy hitters in the writing and arranging categories: James Taylor, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Webb, Lennon and McCartney. Garfunkel's wife, singer Kim Cermak Garfunkel, and son James provide vocals on several selections. His son delivers a rockin' rendition of Elvis Presley's "Good Luck Charm."

"He's not a fan of Elvis, but when I called him in to do this song, I had no idea he was gonna do Elvis - but he did," Garfunkel says with a chuckle. "I gave him an oldies tape when he was four that featured Little Richard, the Everly Brothers. So he got to know rhythm and blues. It was news to me that a 4-year-old could appreciate the fact that R & B really swings, but he did."

Garfunkel has no problem performing so many of the hits that he helped immortalize during the 1960s. "It's easy to go back and revisit the hits," he says. "I don't understand the need of some performers who want to totally get away from the past. The past is what infuses the present. They're wonderful songs that remain very alive in me to this day."

Next up for the 57-year-old New Yorker is an album that he's keeping totally under wraps, and a continued guest-starring role on the critically acclaimed PBS animated children's show "Arthur."

"I love Arthur," Garfunkel says. "He's an adorable guy. I am Arthur because he reads books all the time, and I am a voracious reader. His shows have a real sweetness about them. It's the America we want to believe in."

Garfunkel provides the voice - and the looks - for show's mysterious Minstrel Moose, the antler-festooned, vest and blue jeans- clad singing critter.

"I actually called the show and asked them if I could sing a tune for them sometime. Mark Brown, the creator, met with me over lunch and sketched me, and there I was - Minstrel Moose."

Simon and Garfunkel were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. The two singers reunited for a free outdoor concert in 1981 in New York's Central Park that attracted 400,000 fans.

It would be 12 years before they would again grace the concert stage, when in 1993, Garfunkel joined Simon for the latter's 21-night engagement at the Paramount Theater.

"When it comes to my music, I'm always going for the goosebumps," Garfunkel says. "I love melody and slow-paced tunes for make-out sessions. (Laughs) Yeah, that's it - I love to support a really good make-out session."