Tranquil Waters At-ease Garfunkel crosses another bridge

December 4, 1998
New Jersey Bergen Record
Bob Ivry, Staff Writer

At 57, with a lifetime of achievement in the music business and a plaque bearing his name in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Art Garfunkel is just starting out.

"It's only been since the early Nineties that I've been doing solo shows," Garfunkel says in a phone interview from Minnesota, where he's visiting his wife's relatives. "I had horrible stage fright, but just going out there and doing night after night has brought my adrenaline down to a manageable place.  Now I get a nice, pleasant, tingly feeling before going on."  Garfunkel will get that feeling at 8 tonight when he performs at the John Harms Center in Englewood.

"I'm having a great time being on the road,"  he says. "That's surprising to me."   Garfunkel, of course, used to have a partner to hide behind when stage fright took over.  But the days of teaming up with Paul Simon are gone, for better or worse.   "Paul stood in the way of me fulfilling my potential onstage," Garfunkel says.  "Like an actor, I did Simon and Garfunkel.  Without Paul, I'm more expressive.  I talk to the audience, I have a sense of humor."

That said, Garfunkel adds that 1970's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" - his final studio album collaboration with Simon - still stands as one of his proudest accomplishments.   "It was the result of a compatible set of talents and a commitment to making a record with a capital 'R'", Garfunkel says.  "We were never into the documentary approach.  What didn't sound good, we threw away.  We would fix and polish and cut and paste.  I remember thinking, back when we were making it, that it would be something fine, that it would live through time and maybe into the next century."

He and Simon, boyhood friends from Forest Hills, Queens, parted ways after that album, only to reunite for a couple of record-setting tours and a live record.  And though he attended a performance of Simon's Broadway musical "The Capeman," Garfunkel says he doesn't talk to his old rhyming buddy anymore.  "We're both busy with our separate lives," he says.  Garfunkel has, indeed, remained busy.  He's married with an 8 year old son, and his last album "Songs From A Parent To A Child", was nominated for a Grammy in 1997.

Garfunkel recently completed a walking tour of the continental United States, a 3,000 mile trip on foot spread over 12 years and last spring he began a similar trip through Europe, starting off at Shannon Airport in Dublin and strolling through Ireland.  Next spring, he'll pick up where he left off and traverse Britain, then it's off to the Continent.   "Walking is very primal," Garfunkel says. "It's extremely basic.   You begin to see how it works the body.  The body likes to relax.  It's wonderful for breathing and it tones up the physical self.  I stay at hotels at night and do 15 to 20 miles a day.  I sing along with my Walkman - walking allows me to sing very loudly - and write in my journal."  Walking and writing are more than hobbies for Garfunkel.  In 1989, he published a book of prose poems, "Still Water".

In January, Garfunkel will cut a new album and then he'll see if he can get back into film acting, a successful career he established with fine work in "Catch-22" (1969), "Carnal Knowledge" (1971) and "Boxing Helena" (1993),  But through it all, Garfunkel says that singing is a constant.  It's a lovely gift given by God," he says of his crystalline tenor.  "I've known that from the age of  5.   I never trained it, never brought it to a teacher. If I'm ever apprehensive, I sing. It's my friend.  It gives me goose bumps."