I met Art Garfunkel about 15 years ago. He was appearing in concert that night. His road manager gave us tickets to the concert and we met him and his band afterwards.
In concert, his voice was mostly what you heard on record from the Simon & Garfunkel days, but his range was a bit more limited and not quite the angelic sound of his youth. His voice is one of the finest instruments imaginable: clear, silky and reaching notes unimaginable. The show, while focused on his singing, was augmented by a talented band that complimented him and occasionally stepped out on their own. His musical director at the time was Eric Weissberg, who you might remember from “Dueling Banjos” (Deliverance) fame. A multi-instrumentalist, Weissberg had some interesting arrangements of Garfunkel’s catalogue, and he stepped into the spotlight for a version of “Dueling Banjos.”
After the concert, Garfunkel stopped to talk with fans. Weissberg even drew a banjo around his autograph.
That’s my experience with Art Garfunkel.
After the break-up of Simon & Garfunkel, big things were expected from each. Garfunkel took several years off from music to act in films and pursue other interests. He first album Angel Clare (1973) peaked at number five on the charts and yielded several singles including “For All I know” and “Traveling Boy”.
Garfunkel followed that with Breakaway (1975) which peaked at number 9, and included “99 Miles From L.A.”, “Disney Girls”, “Break Away”, “I Only Have Eyes For You”, and the Simon & Garfunkel song, “My Little Town”.
In 1978, Garfunkel returned with Watermark, an album of mostly Jimmy Webb-penned songs. The album reached number 19, and a single, “(What a) Wonderful World”, with harmony vocals by Paul Simon and James Taylor, peaked at number 17. The album included some of Webb’s less familiar songs. I asked Webb about the experience of working with Garfunkel and he shook his head. Garfunkel, he said, was extremely demanding and hard to please.
Garfunkel closed the decade with Fate For Breakfast, which missed the Top 40, and yielded no hit singles.
Garfunkel would continue to record and tour on his own. In 1982, Garfunkel would reunite with Paul Simon for a concert in Central Park that was released as a film and album. They would tour off and on over the next couple of decades but not release any records together of original material. But they came close. Simon had written songs that Garfunkel added his vocals to, but disagreements, and Simon wanting to sing what he considered very personal songs, led Simon to releasing the album on his own. Simon & Garfunkel would tour together again, but Garfunkel’s vocal problems (vocal chord paresis) forced them to abandon a planned tour and relations between them soured to the point of them not working together again.
Over time, Garfunkel’s voice improved, his vocal chord began healing, and it helped that he finally quit smoking, a habit that contributed to his lowered voice register.
Garfunkel has begun touring again. In 2017, Garfunkel released What Is It All but Luminous: Notes from an Underground Man, not quite an autobiography, it is his story through his poetry and reflections. Rarely, has there been a voice like Garfunkel’s, even at a diminished range, he can still take you where vocalists rarely travel.