Everything Old is New Again:
A folk/pop music legend takes Charleston by gentle storm
By Andrea Warner
Art Garfunkel holds several honorary titles: most enduring hairstyle in rock 'n' roll, most famous second banana of all time (complete with a loving send-up from the Simpson's themselves), and most miles walked by a mathematics master. This week, the man behind one half of rock's most famously fractious duo takes center stage at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center in support of his newest album Some Enchanted Evening.
"I'm the second son of three boys, so I'm a little complex," he laughs, explaining what motivates him. "I have a nervous energy, and [being the middle child] demands that I be interesting all the time. It's like stage performance, too. It leads to nail biting, calculating. You just want to be interesting."
"Interesting" is almost an understatement. Garfunkel has fascinated generations who have watched his career ebb and flow since the heady days of his part in Simon & Garfunkel. Paul Simon and Garfunkel met in the sixth grade, and began performing under the moniker Tom & Jerry when they were just 15 years old.
They released five albums together, as well as creating the soundtrack phenomenon for the film The Graduate — and, most memorably, the hit "Mrs. Robinson." Their last album, 1970's acclaimed Bridge over Troubled Water, was an unknowingly prophetic title as the duo parted ways soon after, at the height of their success.
Since then, Garfunkel has released 12 solo albums, written several volumes of poetry, and starred in the films Catch-22 and Carnal Knowledge. His signature countertenor and intellectualism set hot, geeky girls' hearts aflutter. His rolled-up sleeves and timeless explosion of frizzy curls has served as the inspiration for the looks of countless counterculture cool kids on TV and in the movies.
However, it's his personal life that proves most fascinating. An avid reader, Garfunkel's web site lists every book he's read since 1968, and the number has passed the 1,000 mark in the last couple years. He has also embarked on several cross-continental walks, trekking across both the USA and Japan between 1983 and 1997.
He began his European walk in 1998, and knowingly acknowledges the envious looks he gets from other people when he talks about his adventures.
"They exhale with a kind of 'I'd do it, too' drop to the shoulders," he says. "It's a way to leave the modern life."
These long walks take Garfunkel to many beautiful places, and it's on these journeys that he connects with his inner writer.
"I looked up and I'm under a canopy of trees," Garfunkel remembers. "Maybe the trees sense each other and leave a bit of space so you can still see the sky from underneath. I'm communing with nature like in the old LSD days." He laughs again.
Garfunkel feels like he's finally hitting his stride and credits this to the strong partnerships with his band.
"Playing with someone is what I did with Simon & Garfunkel, and I feel like I'm doing that again," he enthuses.
Some Enchanted Evening finds Garfunkel covering pop standards, somewhat of a departure from his other work. He describes making a list of 160 songs he liked, and the process of yielding to Richard Perry as the producer, who narrowed it down to love songs spanning the 20th century.
"It's about trust," Garfunkel explains. "I'm trying to show up to the mic and be flexible. We'd record 35-40 demos and I would gauge where I got goose bumps." The standards album includes classics like "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face."
"I'm ready to take over the night for people," he says of performing. "Give me the spotlight. I'm not reticent anymore."