I had not even graduated from high school before I decided that Simon and Garfunkel were my favorite music group. I had bought “Wednesday Morning, 3 A. M.” (on vinyl, of course, since CDs had not been invented yet) and relished almost every song. I say “almost” every song, because when the record got to the sixth cut — “The Sound of Silence” — it turned out not to be the popular version with the full orchestration behind it. Rather, it was S & G singing to Paul’s guitar playing. Period. This purist was truly disappointed. (Later on, however, the popular version would show up as the 13th song, so — they redeemed themselves!)
Two years ago I treated myself to a Christmas present by purchasing Peter Ames Carlin’s biography of Paul Simon, Homeward Bound. It was an in-depth look at Simon’s life, both on and off the stage. I learned a lot. Maybe the most poignant lesson was: If you’re not willing to accept someone with all their warts, then don’t read their life story. I should not have been surprised, but I learned that Paul could be a bit of a hard-nosed businessman, sometimes failing to follow through with allegiances, etc. Again, another disappointment. The pedestals we erect for people we admire can be frail.
Then, last year, I found a book that Art Garfunkel had written — What Is It All but Luminous — that’s part biography, part philosophy, part poetry, part theology, and very engaging. The book gave me another glimpse behind the scenes of the duo, but especially Art’s contributions. Let’s just say that it gave me a new appreciation for the half of the team usually perceived as the “second banana” to Paul Simon.
Since then I’ve also acquired a marvelous collection of Art Garfunkel’s works in a five-CD set that includes my favorite A. G. album, “Angel Clare.” I’ve been listening to Art’s solo work intentionally for the past year or so (e.g., popping a disk into my portable CD player and listening as I do yard work, or just playing his music as background for my cartooning sessions).
Art has a beautiful, high-range tenor voice (think “Bridge Over Troubled Water”). While Paul undoubtedly — nay, unquestionably — sings well (he wouldn’t have been able to sell the millions of records he has if he couldn’t sing), his voice doesn’t have a unique quality like Art’s. Art’s been singing since he was very young, leading worship in the synagogue his family attended. At one time during his elder years, his vocal chords were damaged, and it wasn’t certain that he would ever sing again, but with time and treatment, he’s gotten it back again, for which we fans are truly grateful.
Simon and Garfunkel still remain my favorite music duo, and I still enjoy listening to their earlier works. Like many people, I’ve thought off and on about putting a bucket list together. Over the years I’ve put “Meet Paul Simon” as one goal on that list, but in more recent years, I see myself changing that to “Meet Art Garfunkel.”