Blissfully happy Master of the Art of entertaining

March 2, 2007
The Sheffield Star
By David Dunn

ART Garfunkel is contented. He's at a point in his life where he has achieved a lot musically, is blissfully married and is father to two children.

"My life is about my two children," the curly-haired singer says.

"James is 16 and a half and he's such a rich individual, I'm crazy about him. It's such a dodgy age. He's ready to put school in a secondary place and it's too early. He's a young man who is ready to step on the gas pedal of his career - he's going through what I went through at that age.

"And now I have a new year-old son called Beau, a beautiful new arrival on Planet Earth. I'm just lost without my kids.

"But my career is very alive. I've been at this lucky point for 30 years, where I can pick and choose what I do, after Simon and Garfunkel had hits.

"The legacy of that is that you can approach the rest of your life with a philosopher's eye. The money had been made, the glory had been achieved, and it really is a case of following your values. Life has been philosophical ever since."

As one half of successful duo Simon and Garfunkel, Art has had plenty to smile about. With childhood friend Paul Simon, he created a lasting legacy with hits like Bridge Over Troubled Water and Mrs Robinson.

Art, aged 65, insists he isn't bothered when people remember him more for those songs than his own solo music. "Of course they're interested in those hits. I worked very hard to build up that kind of interest. My whole life is charmed by having done those five albums with Mr Simon and being a treasure to many people for a lifetime's worth."

The duo are famous for their tumultuous working partnership, and have reunited numerous times since their split in 1970, only to publicly and acrimoniously fall out on nearly every occasion, vowing never to perform together again.

"We played the game. When Paul and I were buddies in junior high school at age 13, we purposely had a mock splitting up - just to create gossip at our school. I think that's very telling."

Their last reunion tour happened over two years ago, in 2004, and for the moment, Art admits they won't work together any time soon.

"Do I have a plan to work with Mr Simon again? No. Is there a possibility of more recorded music with Simon and Garfunkel? Yes, I suppose there is a possibility.

"We are friends. I had lunch with him the other day. We hang out more comfortably than we used to, so the availability of working together seems there. But we have no plans. I wonder what he would say?" he smiles.

But Art still looks back at the good old duo days with fondness.

"The highlight of my career is that Central Park show I did with Mr Simon in 1981 on September 19, when the rain had cleared and the sky turned pearly grey and half a million people showed up, and Paul and I were blissed out."

Art has achieved a lot since going solo, releasing 11 albums, acting in five films, writing a book and walking across America.

His current focus is on his new album, Some Enchanted Evening, a collection of 30s-style standards from Rodgers and Hammerstein, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin.

“We (with producer Richard Perry) always wanted to do this, and began recording it in the 90s. Finally, Rod Stewart had huge success with The Great American Songbook and that made me think that the way has been paved.

“I’ve been busy doing other things that upstaged it. I made a film called Bad Timing, raised a family, wrote a book of poems, finished reading the dictionary, Simon and Garfunkel things - I was always on to a new project,” he adds.

The reason for his busy-ness lies in his ambition to stay interesting: “I like to stay interesting to myself.

“I became a singer because when the kindergarten kids would go home from school, I would linger behind at the back of the line in the stairwell. And when they were all gone, it would be all quiet and I’d be all alone.

“I found that the reverb, the echo, off the stairs was delicious and I began to sing (he starts singing) these inspirational goosebumps songs - and I realised I had a voice.

“All I was doing was trying to be interesting to myself and use my own ears to guide me with what’s beautiful. For the rest of my life, I’ve been using my own mind to think what constitutes an interesting guy. What’s valid and what makes for a whole man? And I send myself out to stay alive with vitality and not fall asleep in life.”

Art admits that he has no plans for the future, saying: “I don’t have dreams. I don’t have a plan to do anything... I’ll be open to opportunities and I’ll jump into things. I leave it very organic, I follow my feelings, I like to blow on the wind so I can find what my natural inclination is.”

He continues: “I want to do what I’ve been doing, and I want to keep getting better. It’s not an exciting answer but it’s what drives me.

“I want to take my audience and increase the size by doing a good show.”

But Art may retire from music soon: “I don’t know if there’s a possibility of me making more music. If this album isn’t successful, I don’t know if people deserve another.

“People in my generation don’t have plans to stop. I always used to think that the word retirement means nothing to me, but lately I’ve been thinking that the word is very appealing to somebody who likes a lot of life. And life is more than singing and entertaining.

“It’s a wide world. I don’t want to spend too much of my time on a narrow focus, and although this entertaining thing is big, it covers a lot. There’s other things to do, and to retire and do other things seems appealing now.”