Art of be­ing Gar­funkel

IN­TER­VIEW ART GAR­FUNKEL

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW THRELFALL

ARTGAR FUNKEL is rem­i­nisc­ing about the early 1970s when, need­ing to escape the suf­fo­ca­tion of su­per­star­dom, he loved “tak­ing the North­ern line up to Gold­ers Green and Hamp­stead where I would meet many friends from the Jewish com­mu­nity”. Or go look­ing for a bed­sit­ter in Bayswater — “or was it Not­ting Hill?” — for a month or so to soak up Lon­don’s vi­brant mul­ti­cul­tural life.

When fame came for him and his mu­si­cal part­ner Paul Si­mon, Gar­funkel “started to feel claus­tro­pho­bic in the stu­dio. I yearned to ex­plore the world and though I was em­broiled in all as­pects of my faith, I had been cu­ri­ous about oth­ers. So I em­barked upon long walk­ing trips ev­ery­where that in­ter­ested me. Af­ter walk­ing from the east to the west coast of Amer­ica, I started with the Alps in Europe. When young you’re so impressionable. I’d hear a voice in­side say­ing ‘don’t do what they are all do­ing’ be­cause you’ll lose some of the fun that way. I made sure I fig­ured it all out as a young Jewish lad find­ing his way in the big city.”

Had that “young Jewish lad” been am­bi­tious? “I was. It seems to me that at 19 or 20, a young man is burn­ing to be great at some­thing. You have a vi­sion that’s be­yond the neigh­bour­hood. You want to make a mark while you’re alive. You don’t know ex­actly your future, but you want to be great at it. And great­ness is an im­por­tant word. And you dare not tell any­body how ex­treme and how burn­ing are your vi­sions, be­cause you don’t want any­body to mess with them.”

Gark­funkel is back in Bri­tain next month for a tour tak­ing in Manch­ester, Liver­pool and Lon­don’s Royal Fes­ti­val Hall. Clearly an An­glophile, it was cov­er­ing Scar­bor­ough Fair for The Grad­u­ate sound­track that sparked an affin­ity with York­shire. In­deed, a re­main­ing am­bi­tion is to sing Scar­bor­ough Fair to a Scar­bor­ough au­di­ence.

Still a thought­ful soul at 72, he con­fides that em­bla­zoned on his favourite blue sweater is a quote from Ar­gen­tinian writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges: “I’ve always imag­ined that par­adise would be a kind of li­brary.” And his New York “kind of li­brary” equiv­a­lent is “a sail­boat pond in Cen­tral Park about 200 me­tres by 50 me­tres wide. Kids have lit­tle re­mote-con­trolled boats on it. There’s a hot choco­late stand and I’ve been go­ing there for many years be­cause I’m a con­stant reader and this is my quiet place. It’s so pic­turesque. I’ll sit there af­ter rent­ing a boat for my young boy, Beau. It’s a bril­liant place to spend the day. It’s the core of the city. I sing to my­self un­der the viaducts. You get a lovely echo and I’m mar­ried to echo.”

Mod­ern life re­mains some­thing of a mys­tery and he has only re­cently ac­quired a mo­bile phone — and that is just to deal with emails.

With Si­mon, and in his solo ca­reer, Gar­funk­fel has been

‘YOU DARE NOT TELL HOW BURN­ING ARE YOUR VI­SIONS’

re­spon­si­ble for pop­u­lar mu­si­cal stan­dards such as Bridge Over Trou­bled Wa­ter, Mrs Robin­son, The Sound of Si­lence, The Only Liv­ing Boy in New York and Bright Eyes. There was also a di­ver­sion into movies, with key roles in Mike Ni­chols’s Car­nal Knowl­edge and Ni­co­las Roeg’s Bad Tim­ing.

“I had a very nice act­ing ca­reer but I didn’t get t he a gent, ” he re­calls. “Maybe I needed an ea­ger Jewish one in Hol­ly­wood and I didn’t pur­sue what comes next. I thought I had a feel for it, es­pe­cially work­ing along­side peo­ple like Jack Ni­chol­son. We made a great act­ing duo. I still get sent scripts from time to time but...”

Gar­funkel has a pho­to­graphic mem­ory of S&G’s chart-top­ping years, ex­plain­ing: “I have a book in the front of my mind about those days, and my Jewish up­bring­ing, that I will one day bring out as an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy. To clear my mind I make sure that I walk ev­ery day in Cen­tral Park, which, of course, is such a mean­ing­ful place to me as Paul and I have per­formed there many times. It’s the lungs of the city, it’s where I go to ex­hale, where I breathe. I’ll check on lit­tle Beau as his

class pass through the park.” His elder son, James, is 23, and shares his ex­plor­ing in­stincts. When James was in Siberia, “I looked up where he was on my three foot high globe and I emailed him: ‘Watch out for theft.’ But he said that as it’s mi­nus 40 de­grees, los­ing fingers and toes to frost­bite is of more con­cern. He’s like his dad, my James, he’s a one-off. I love what he does.

“I have a plan to, year by year, walk di­ag­o­nally across Europe. I started in Ire­land at the end of the 90s in Shan­non and I’ve now done all over France, Italy and most of Greece and the Greek is­lands and Tur­key. I’ve vis­ited Is­rael, too, which was mag­i­cal, mag­i­cal to see the places where it all be­gan. And when I get home to Manhattan I sur­vey that three foot high globe, which lights up in­side, and plan my next ad­ven­ture.” His last ma­jor CD com­pi­la­tion was

The Singer and I ask rather ner­vously if the re­ports that Si­mon and Sony Records blocked the in­clu­sion of some of the big­gest S&G hits is true. “Cor­rect, they did. Maybe The Singer will be my last ever col­lec­tion, though I was glad I put some new songs on it. But, alas, there is no The Boxer, no Mrs Robin­son, no Home­ward Bound.”

How­ever, “I bow to Paul Si­mon for giv­ing me The Sound of Si­lence and Bridge

Over Trou­bled Wa­ter. They fall into my set-list beau­ti­fully and it takes the au­di­ence for a good ride.”

So there’s no like­li­hood of a fol­lowup CD? “That’d be great but it has to do with Paul Si­mon.”

Fi­nally, I ask how his voice is hold­ing up, given that it has been, in his words, “in the garage” and that he is not cur­rently record­ing. “I have to be care­ful, of course. And if I suf­fer a mi­nor set­back I have to treat it like a very fine car which needs to spend a bit more time in the garage get­ting mended. But there are times still where it’s fully Ar­tie Gar­funkel singing again. Some­times you must be pa­tient though as the voice is wait­ing to take flight.” Art Gar­funkel plays Manch­ester on Septem­ber 5, Glas­gow on Septem­ber 8 and Lon­don on Septem­ber 11

PHO­TOS: GETTY IMAGES

Art Gar­funkel and ( be­low) per­form­ing with Paul Si­mon

PHOTO: AP

Trav­el­ling show: Art Gar­funkel (with Paul Si­mon) en­joys noth­ing bet­ter than ex­plor­ing dif­fer­ent parts of the globe

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