Art Garfunkel: Biography, Life, And Facts About The Enigmatic Rock Star
Art Garfunkel, relaxes on a bench in the Embankment Gardens, London, in 1975. Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Art Garfunkel of Simon & Garfunkel is known as the tender voice in hits like "The Boxer," "I Am A Rock," "The Sound Of Silence," and "Mrs. Robinson" -- songs that changed folk music in the 1960s. But he's more than just Paul Simon’s sidekick. He’s a poet and an actor who’s also extremely well educated, although you wouldn’t know it without prodding him. After Simon and Garfunkel broke apart he didn’t fade into the background as quietly as history suggests. Since the demise of the duo he’s sung with a number of artists, written hundreds of poems, appeared in edgy movies, and he’s done quite a bit of walking. Art Garfunkel is a man of many talents, even if fair weathered fans only remember him as a singer.
He Was A Popular Kid
Even though Garfunkel exudes this kind of uber-nerd pheromone he wasn’t actually the indoor kid that you might think he was. He grew up in Brooklyn with a large Jewish family. He loved sports and he started singing at an early age. An illness in 1955 left him homeward bound so he spent all of his time taking foul shots at his personal basketball hoop and he got pretty good. He told The Guardian:
I was popular and a momma’s boy, easy to like, not weird at all. I was the singer and I played a lot of sports. When you’re the ball player, you’re not weird – you’re quite normal. Later on, in my adolescence, like so many kids, I went introverted and quiet. It’s weird how much homework I did.
In sixth grade he met Paul Simon at PS 164, when they were both cast in the elementary school graduation play, Alice in Wonderland. For the next seven years the two performed as “Tom and Jerry” at school dances before separating and going to college.
He Has Degrees In Architecture And Math
Garfunkel took the focus he applied to shooting hoops and brought it to his studies at Columbia University. Initially, he studied art history while taking part in extracurricular activities like fencing, skiing, and a cappella while joining the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. In 1965, he earned his bachelor's degree before moving onto the Teachers College at Columbia to gain his Masters in mathematics education in 1967 (the same year that The Graduate was released.
At the time, a career in math wasn’t a bad idea to Garfunkel. His first album with Paul Simon, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., had been a critical and commercial failure, nearly ending his dream of pop stardom.
He Taught Math After Splitting With Paul Simon
One song on Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., "The Sounds of Silence," was remixed (without Simon & Garfunkel's knowledge) and re-released as a single -- and became a chart-topping hit on January 1, 1966. Simon and Garfunkel were a force of nature following the success of “The Sound of Silence.” After releasing the albums Sounds of Silence; Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme; and Bookends, they split over personal differences. Garfunkel told Rolling Stone that he would have liked to get back to gather after a short break, but that Paul Simon walked out on their joint success:
How can you walk away from this lucky place on top of the world, Paul? What’s going on with you, you idiot? How could you let that go, jerk?
After the group split Garfunkel took a break from performing to teach math at a private academy located in Litchfield, Connecticut. While speaking with The Guardian he noted that he didn’t like to talk about his past as a folk singer with the students, but that he threw them a bone every once in a while:
We make weird left and right turns in our lives. You imagine that the country and not the city is where you want to be, that a cottage in the country might be good. I got in front of the kids and put geometry stuff on the blackboard and I would say, ‘Yeah, I’ve had Bridge Over Troubled Water, but we’re not going to talk about that, we’re going to talk about geometry, and at the end of the year I’ll deal with the fame trip.’ And they were like, ‘He’s really talking geometry!’
After Teaching He Started Acting
The Graduate opened a ton of doors for Art Garfunkel. Through the film he made a deep connection with director Mike Nichols and they made two movies together. In 1970 they made Catch-22, with Garfunkel playing Lieutenant Nately and the next year he popped up in the director’s Carnal Knowledge alongside Jack Nicholson, Candice Bergen, and Ann-Margret. Even though the pairing was fruitful, Garfunkel says that it was Nichols’ fault for breaking up Simon and Garfunkel by dropping Paul Simon from Catch-22. He said:
[Charles Grodin’s] gone right to the heart of the difficulty in Simon & Garfunkel when he says, 'Artie and Paul were cast for Catch-22, and Paul's part was dropped… I had Paul sort of waiting: 'All right, I can take this for three months. I'll write the songs, but what's the fourth month? And why is Artie in Rome a fifth month?' What's Mike doing to Simon & Garfunkel?'
He continued acting is a wide variety of pictures including the super creepy sex thriller Boxing Helena as a doctor who’s colleagues with a serial amputator.
He’s Read More Than 1,000 Books
Even though he wasn’t much of a reader as a child, Garfunkel claims that when he entered Columbia University in 1959 something changed in his head and he developed a fascinating with reading, specifically poetry. He started reading everything he picked up and even started cataloguing every book that he read. Since 1968 Garfunkel says that he’s read more than 1,000 books - including the entire Random House Dictionary.
His favorite books are all over the place, which makes sense for someone who’s read more than a thousand of them. He enjoys heady work like The Idiot as well as well as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. While speaking with the New Yorker he said that he reads for pleasure, not to look cool:
I read for the reading pleasure, not for the gold star. Reading is a way to take downtime and make it stimulating. If you’re in the waiting room of a dentist’s office and don’t want to twiddle your thumbs, you turn to Tolstoy.
He’s Walked Across The World
One thing that Garfunkel does that has nothing to do with his early life as a singer-songwriter is walk, not in the way that most people walk around the park, but in a continent spanning way. Since the 1980s he’s been walking across entire countries while writing poetry.
He crossed Japan in a few weeks in the early ‘80s and between ’83 and ’97 he he walked across the United States in a series of 40 different excursions. In 1998 he started walking across Europe in installments, beginning in Ireland and ending in Istanbul in 2015. When The Guardian asked if anyone ever recognized him on his walks he explained:
If you carry a spirit inside that says, ‘I am Mr Nobody,’ you become Mr Nobody. There are times when I’m in New York when I’m that famous guy, and I carry the attitude – then I get stopped all the time.
Tags: Art Garfunkel | Simon & Garfunkel
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