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Art Garfunkel

The other half of SIMON & GARFUNKEL (folk music’s most commercial duos of all time), one shouldn’t be fooled into filing subsequent solo star, ART GARFUNKEL, in with the singer-songwriter brat-pack, that was all down to the creative one – PAUL SIMON. But with his smooth-as-silk singing voice that has spanned five decades, GARFUNKEL’s talent of finding the right song to match his lilting cadence is an “Art” unto itself.
Taking his sporadic film-acting career as a separate issue, it all started when he chose to build on his S&G/OST work with “The Graduate” director Mike Nichols, a friendship that landed a starring role for Art in the Oscar-winner’s adaptation of “Catch-22” (1970) and – opposite Jack Nicholson – “Carnal Knowledge” (1971). Despite encouraging critical notices and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor for the latter movie, Art made only intermittent forays into acting; Nicolas Roeg’s “Bad Timing” (1980) – very much opposite Theresa Russell – and Blaine Novak’s “Good To Go” (1986) kept his star profile on a high, while he unexpectedly resumed his Hollywood career with a bit part in the controversial Jennifer Chambers Lynch effort, “Boxing Helena” (1993). The odd cameo in disco movie, “54” (1998), and teen-band vehicle, “Longshot” (2001), were hardly stretching his acting capacity; that arrived in his comeback part in 2009’s “The Rebound”.
Born Arthur Ira Garfunkel, November 5, 1941, Forest Hills, Queens, New York, his talent for singing grew from an early age, and at his bar mitzvah he sang as a cantor in front of his family and peers. Having met PAUL SIMON in a school play, and inspired by the day’s pop innovations, The EVERLY BROTHERS, Art and Paul formed the almost mimetically vocal-harmony duo, Tom & Jerry. As a side-line to a string of 45s (including Top 50 entry, `Hey, Schoolgirl’), GARFUNKEL would attempt his own push for success as Artie Garr on two croon-style solo platters, `Beat Love’ and Forgive Me’; issued 1959 and 1961 respectively.
Allowing themselves a proper education (Art majored in architecture, earned a B.A. in art history and could well’ve opted to become a maths teacher), Queens College graduates SIMON AND GARFUNKEL decided to renew their musical partnership in 1963. From the dulcet tones of `The Sound Of Silence’ (a smash hit on their 1964 debut LP, “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.”) to 1970’s genre-busting, Grammy-winning long-player, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, the duo were one of the world’s most successful acts. But all was not well within the agitated pairing and, with their interests moving into other areas, both Paul and Art took off in other directions; there were the odd reconciliations for an audience (they recorded a concert set in Central Park, NY in 1981, and for “Old Friends: Live On Stage” in 2003), but studio albums were down to “best ofs”.
In parallel to PAUL SIMON’s illustrious beginnings, GARFUNKEL – as he was briefly billed – took inspiration from a character in Thomas Hardy’s Tess Of The d’Urbervilles novel, and issued his debut album ANGEL CLARE {*7}, in 1973. Heightened by the US Top 10 fruits in his version of JIMMY WEBB’s `All I Know’ (he also contributed `Another Lullaby’), and garnering an array of musicians including JERRY GARCIA, J.J. CALE, drummer Hal Blaine, et al, the set was comfortable in an easy-listening/MOR kind of way; but for the traditional `Barbara Allen’ and the old-timey Charlie Monroe number, `Down In The Willow Garden’, songs were drawn from contemporary masters like VAN MORRISON (`I Shall Sing’), RANDY NEWMAN (`Old Man’) and ALBERT HAMMOND (`Mary Was An Only Child’).
On the back of an exclusive Top 40 hit with Tim Moore’s `Second Avenue’, 1975’s Richard Perry-produced BREAKAWAY {*6} continued the same formulaic lush-pop approach; its interest lay in a one-off reunification with PAUL SIMON on `My Little Town’, and soft-rock ballads from the likes of STEPHEN BISHOP, GALLAGHER & LYLE (on the title track), STEVIE WONDER, BRUCE JOHNSTON and a UK chart-topping reading of The Flamingos nuggets, `I Only Have Eyes For You’.
Initially pressed up as an album paying homage to singer-songwriter, JIMMY WEBB, WATERMARK (1977) {*6} was immediately withdrawn from circulation when attendant 45, `Crying In My Sleep’, failed to generation a response. Substituting the track `Fingerpaint’ by his US Top 20 version of SAM COOKE’s `(What A) Wonderful World’ – featuring harmonies from none other than PAUL SIMON and JAMES TAYLOR – GARFUNKEL duly found a renewed buying public for the re-promoted Top 30 set.
The angelic-voiced singer was again raiding the vaults on fourth album, FATE FOR BREAKFAST (1979) {*4}, famous only for the inclusion of his biggest and best-known chart-toppers, the haunting and sentimental `Bright Eyes’, penned by none other than Wombling-free, MIKE BATT, and the theme tune to the animated film, Watership Down.
For the most part, chart success eluded GARFUNKEL in the 80s; SCISSORS CUT (1981) {*4}, the Amy Grant/JIMMY WEBB collaboration THE ANIMALS’ CHRISTMAS (1986) {*5} and LEFTY (1988) {*4}, not really illustrating the man’s full potential.
While exploitative compilations were the order of the day, the odds ’n’ sods UP ‘TIL NOW (1993) {*4} for Columbia Records (featuring a duet with JAMES TAYLOR on `Crying In The Rain’) was certainly not the answer. Or for that matter was his 1996 live recording ACROSS AMERICA (1997) {*4} and his kids’ record, SONGS FROM A PARENT TO A CHILD (1997) {*5}.
What was more in line with a now rejuvenated GARFUNKEL, was when he hooked up with Nashville singer/songwriter Buddy Mondlock and L.A.-based Maia Sharp for EVERYTHING WAITS TO BE NOTICED (2002) {*7}. If it was a nifty title, then the writing (a fair part of it by poet Art, himself) and interplay by all including producer Billy Mann, was none too shabby either, SIMON’s former foil showcasing some of his most engaging work for many a year; check out `Young And Free’, `The Thread’ and `Perfect Moment’.
And then as if reading some ROD STEWART “Great American Songbook” charter on how to become the next Tony Bennett or Frank Sinatra, the frizzy GARFUNKEL said it all again with the schmaltzy, Valentine’s Day-aimed SOME ENCHANTED EVENING (2007) {*4}.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Feb2013

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