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Arthur Garfunkel - biography

Arthur Ira "Art" Garfunkel (born November 5, 1941) is an American singer, poet, and actor, best known as half of the folk duo Simon & Garfunkel. In particular, he is remembered for being the lead singer on the #1 hit single, "Bridge Over Troubled Water". Highlights of his solo career include a top ten hit, three top twenty hits, six top forty hits, fourteen Adult Contemporary top 30 singles, Five Adult Contemporary number ones, two UK number ones, a Golden Globe nomination and a People's Choice Award. Through his solo and collaborative work, Garfunkel has earned 5 Grammys, including the Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1994, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Early life and career

Art Garfunkel (Hebrew Name: Aharon Ira ben Yaakov) was born in Forest Hills, Queens, New York City, the son of Rose (b. 1911, d. June 17, 2005), a housewife, and Jacob "Jack" Garfunkel (b. July 9, 1908, d. August 1986), a travelling menswear salesman. His family was Jewish, with his paternal grandparents having immigrated from Iaşi in Romania, and Garfunkel is the first cousin of pop impresario Lou Pearlman on his mother's side. Garfunkel attended Forest Hills High School. While neither of Garfunkel's parents had connection to the music business, both had good singing voices.

According to the Across America DVD, Garfunkel's love for singing "Came in the first grade. when we were lined up in size order, and after everyone else had left, I'd stay behind and enjoy the echo sound of the stairwell tiles and sing "Unchained Melody" and "You'll Never Walk Alone", learning to love this goose-bumps song from the tender age of five." Later, Garfunkel's father bought him a wire recorder and from then on, Garfunkel spent his afternoons singing, recording and playing it back, so he could listen for flaws and learn how to improve.

At his Bar Mitzvah in 1954, Garfunkel was his own Cantor, performing over four hours of his repertoire to his family.

As a young teen, Garfunkel was struck with a Lung infection leading to a love for Basketball. He explained his love for the sport in a 1998 Interview: "In the summer of ’55, I had a lung infection. I couldn’t run around, but I love basketball and there was a hoop nearby. Much of the summer I spent methodically hitting 96, 98 foul shots out of 100. Then 102! I never played on a team after Junior High School. Just 3 against 3, half court pick up games in the schoolyard."

He met his future singing partner, Paul Simon, in the sixth grade - PS 164, Queens, when they were both cast in the elementary school graduation play, Alice In Wonderland. (Garfunkel was the Cheshire Cat; Simon was the White Rabbit.) At school, Garfunkel was shy, but was able to make friends due to his singing voice. He also had several girlfriends during his teens thanks to his voice, a sweet demeanor and a sense of humor. It has been said by Garfunkel that Simon first became interested in singing after hearing Garfunkel sing a rendition of Nat King Cole's "Too Young" in a school talent show.

Between 1956 and 1962, the two had performed together as Tom & Jerry, occasionally performing at school dances. Their idols were the Everly Brothers, whom they imitated in their use of close two-part harmony. In 1957, while in their mid-teens, Simon and Garfunkel recorded the song "Hey, Schoolgirl" under the name Tom and Jerry, given to them by their label Big Records. The single reached number forty-nine on the pop charts. Garfunkel ("Tom Graph") chose his nickname because he liked to track, or "graph" hits, on the pop charts. He also released some singles as a solo artist, under the name Artie Garr (a shortened version of Garfunkel). In interviews, Garfunkel has noted himself how these early singles distinguished him as a folk-styled crooner, with songs like "Beat Love" and "Dream Alone" (both released 1959). After graduating from Forest Hills high school, Garfunkel studied at Columbia College at Columbia University in Manhattan in the early 1960s, where he sang with the Kingsmen, an all-male a cappella group (not to be confused with The Kingsmen of "Louie Louie" fame) and was a brother in the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity.

Garfunkel was on the Tennis, Skiing, Fencing and Bowling teams at College. In 1962, Garfunkel earned a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in art history, followed by a Master's degree in mathematics, while Simon attended Queens College. Garfunkel also studied Mathematics Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Simon and Garfunkel

In 1963, he and Simon reformed their duo under their own names as "Simon and Garfunkel" and released their first album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. on Columbia Records in October 1964. It was not a critical success, and the duo subsequently split again. The next year, producer Tom Wilson lifted the song "The Sounds of Silence" from the record, dubbed an electric backing onto it, and released it as a single that went to #1 on the Billboard pop charts.

Simon had gone to England in 1965 after the initial failure of Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., pursuing a solo career. But he returned to the US to reunite with Garfunkel after "The Sounds of Silence" had started to enjoy commercial success, and went on to become one of the most popular acts of the 1960s. Together they recorded four more influential albums, Sounds of Silence; Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme; Bookends; and the hugely successful Bridge over Troubled Water. Simon and Garfunkel also contributed extensively to the soundtrack of the 1967 Mike Nichols film The Graduate (starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft). While writing "Mrs. Robinson", Simon originally toyed with the title "Mrs. Roosevelt." When Garfunkel reported this indecision over the song's name to the director, Nichols replied, "Don't be ridiculous! We're making a movie here! It's Mrs. Robinson!" Simon and Garfunkel returned to England in the Fall of 1968 and did a concert appearance at Kraft Hall which was broadcast on the BBC, and also featured Art's solo performance of "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her", which received a standing ovation.

While Garfunkel was not a song-writer per se, he did write the poem "Canticle" as a re-write of Simon's "Side of A Hill" from his debut album, for "Scarborough Fair/Canticle". He also worked as the vocal arranger for the duo, working out who the songs would be sung by and how each song was produced. He is also credited as having written the instrumental on "The Boxer", and creating the Audio montage, "Voices Of The Old People" on "Bookends". Citing personal differences and divergence in career interests, they split following the release of their most critically acclaimed album, Bridge over Troubled Water, in 1970.

Both Simon and Garfunkel pursued solo projects after the duo released their popular album Bridge over Troubled Water. Occasionally, they did reunite, such as in 1975 for their Top Ten single "My Little Town", which Simon originally wrote for Garfunkel, claiming Garfunkel's solo output was lacking "bite." The song was included on their respective solo albums; Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years, and Garfunkel's Breakaway. Contrary to popular belief, the song is not at all autobiographical of Simon's early life in New York City, but of Garfunkel's childhood in Queens. In 1981, they got together again for the famous concert in Central Park, followed by a world tour and an aborted reunion album Think Too Much, which was eventually released (without Garfunkel) as Hearts and Bones.

Together, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2003, the two reunited again when they received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. This reunion led to a U.S. tour—the acclaimed "Old Friends" concert series—followed by a 2004 international encore, which culminated in a free concert at the Colosseum in Rome. That final concert drew 600,000 people.

Solo career

During a three-year hiatus after Simon & Garfunkel's break-up, Garfunkel starred in two Mike Nichols films, one of which had him nominated for a Golden Globe. He also spent late 1971- early 1972 working as a mathematics teacher at Litchfield Private School, in Connecticut (By request of his fianceé Linda Marie Grossman). However, in late 1972, with Simon & Garfunkel having released their Greatest Hits album, Garfunkel felt ready to return to his musical career. His first album was 1973's Angel Clare, which contained "All I Know" (B-Side: "Mary Was An Only Child) (#9 in the United States, US AC #1), along with "I Shall Sing" (B-Side: "Feuilles-Oh/Do Space Men Pass Dead Souls on Their Way to the Moon?") (US #38, US AC #4) and "Travelling Boy" (B-Side: "Old Man")(US #102, US AC #30) as singles. The album was received with mixed reviews, reaching #5 in the U.S.

In 1974, Garfunkel released the hit record, "Second Avenue" (B-Side: "Woyaya") (US #34, US AC #6).

On his next album, 1975 Breakaway, Garfunkel briefly reunited with Paul Simon for the 1975 hit "My Little Town" (B-Side: "Rag Doll") (US #9, US AC #1). The album also included the singles "Breakaway" (B-Side: "Disney Girls") (US #39, US AC #1) and "I Only Have Eyes For You" (a 1934 song written by Harry Warren) (B-Side: Looking For The Right One) (US #18, US AC #1, UK #1), which is noted as being Garfunkel's first U.K. Number One.

Garfunkel's next release was the 1978 album, Watermark (US #19, UK #26), which upon initial release, failed to make an impression on the public. Its main single, "Crying In My Sleep" ("Mr. Shuck 'N' Jive ") (UK #25) failed to reach the US Top 40, but after a two month hiatus where it was taken off the market, it was re-released in January 1978, with Garfunkel's cover of Sam Cooke's "(What a) Wonderful World" (B-Side: "Wooden Planes"), which reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart and #17 pop, as the new single. Paul Simon, and mutual friend James Taylor, had contributed backing vocals to the song, making the song a huge hit on the U.S. A.C. charts. Garfunkel's last release of the seventies was the 1979 album, Fate For Breakfast (US #67, UK #2), was his first US flop album. the album first single, "In A Little While (I'll Be On My Way)" (B-Side: "And I Know") (US AC #12) failed to break the top forty, and neither did his second single, "Since I Don't Have You" (B-Side: "When Someone Doesn't Want You") (US #53, US AC #5, UK #38). But in the U.K. the album was a huge success, scoring a number one hit with "Bright Eyes" (B-Side: "Sail on a Rainbow") (US AC #29, UK #1) (a song written by Mike Batt). A version of "Bright Eyes" also appeared in the movie (based on the famous novel) Watership Down. However, tragedy struck at this time when his long-term girlfriend, Laurie Bird, committed suicide in June 1979, at their Manhattan apartment, just three months after the album's release in March. Garfunkel later admitted that the incident left him in a deep depression for most of the 80's, hence the reason for a lack of musical output during the majority of the decade.

Garfunkel's next album was a low point in his career. The 1981 album, Scissors Cut (US #113, UK #51) (dedicated to Laurie Bird), contained three singles, "A Heart in New York" (B-Side: "Is This Love") (US #66, US AC #10), "Scissors Cut" and "Hang On In", with the two failing to chart.

Following disappointing sales of Scissors Cut, Garfunkel reunited with Simon for The Concert in Central Park and a world tour. They had disagreements during the tour. In 1984 Stereo Review Magazine reported that Simon mixed out Garfunkel's voice from a new album, initially slated to be a Simon and Garfunkel studio reunion, but ultimately released as a Simon solo album (Hearts and Bones). In 1986, Garfunkel played the part of the butcher on the Mike Batt Concept Album, The Hunting Of The Snark. Garfunkel again left the music scene during which time his father died, leading further into depression. But in the fall of 1985 he met his future wife, Kathryn Cermack. Garfunkel's retirement lasted a full seven years, until his 1988 album, Lefty (US, #134), which produced only one single, "So Much in Love" (US #76 AC #11).

Garfunkel released his first compilation album in 1984, The Art Garfunkel Album (UK #12), never released in the U.S., which contained the minor hit "Sometimes When I'm Dreaming" (UK #77, U.S. AC #25). This was followed by 1988 Garfunkel and 1993 Up 'til Now, neither of which received significant critical or commercial success. His live 1996 concert Across America (UK #35), recorded at the registry hall on Ellis Island features musical guests James Taylor, Garfunkel's wife, Kim, and his son James.

Garfunkel performed the theme song for the 1991 television series, Brooklyn Bridge, and "The Ballad of Buster Baxter" for a 1998 episode of the children's educational television series Arthur, where he was depicted as a singing/narrator moose.

Garfunkel's performance of Monty Python member Eric Idle's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" was used in the end credits of the 1997 film As Good as It Gets. In 2003, Garfunkel made his debut as a songwriter on his Everything Waits to Be Noticed album. Teaming up with singer-songwriters Maia Sharp and Buddy Mondlock, the album contained several songs which were originally poems written by Garfunkel. The album is recognized as his first effort at songwriting since his teenage years with Tom & Jerry.

In 2003, Simon and Garfunkel reunited again for a successful world tour that extended into 2004. In 2005, his song "Sometimes When I'm Dreaming" from The Art Garfunkel Album (1984) (written by Mike Batt) was re-recorded by ex-ABBA singer Agnetha Fältskog on her album My Colouring Book.

In 2006, Garfunkel signed with Rhino Records (revived Atco Records), and his first Rhino/Atco album Some Enchanted Evening was released in America on January 30, 2007. The album was a dedicated celebration of pop standards of Garfunkel's childhood. In late February 2007 during a German television interview to promote the new album, he expressed interest in reuniting with Paul Simon on a new Simon and Garfunkel album.

Recent events

In 2009, Garfunkel appeared as himself on the HBO television show Flight of the Conchords episode entitled "Prime Minister." Both Garfunkel and Simon appeared together in Madison Square Garden on October 29, and 30, 2009, for the 25th anniversary rock and roll hall of fame concert. He continued to tour in 2009 with four musicians and his son.

Voice classification

Garfunkel's voice has been noted as changing over the past four decades, but virtually unnoticeably until his late fifties, when his voice began to lower after years of smoking. Garfunkel has been noted as being a natural voiced Tenor who can lower his voice to a G2 on the keyboard (Baritone range) and, as heard on the first chorus of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" as high as Eb5, though this in falsetto. Garfunkel has suggested his next album will have songs that are more vocal based.

Acting career

Garfunkel pursued an acting career in the early 1970s, appearing in two Mike Nichols films: Catch-22 (1970), in which he played the 19-year old naive Lieutenant Nately, and Carnal Knowledge (1971), in which he played the idealistic Sandy. His role as Sandy won him a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1972. He later starred in the televison show Walker Texas Ranger.

He later appeared in Nicholas Roeg's Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession (1980) as Alex Linden, an American psychiatrist who serves as the film's main antagonist. The film received the Toronto Film Festival's highest honour, the People's Choice Award, in 1980 and the London Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director.

He appeared in Good to Go (1986) directed by Blain Novak, starring as a Washington, D.C. journalist who struggles to clear his name after being framed for rape and murder. Garfunkel then appeared in the medical crime drama Boxing Helena (1993), directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch, as Dr. Lawrence Augustine.

Garfunkel's most recent film is The Rebound (2010), directed by Bart Freundlich, playing Harry Finklestein, the slightly senile and comedic relieving father of the film's main character, played by Justin Bartha.

Garfunkel has said he turned down numerous film offers in the 1970s. He reportedly turned down the role of Billy Pilgrim in the adaption of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five and the role of Tom Hagen in The Godfather in the same year (1972).

Poetry career

Garfunkel, an avid reader and bibliophile, has admitted that the Garfunkel household was not a literary family, but it was not until his entrance to Columbia College in 1959, that he began to "read a million books and became a reader". It was through this he began an interest in poetry.

Garfunkel's poetic career began in 1981, while on the Simon & Garfunkel 1981-1982 tour in Switzerland, he was riding a motorcycle and began writing a poem describing the countryside. In 1989, Still Water, Garfunkel's collection of prose poetry was released to wide acclaim. Much of the book showed his depression over the loss of his father, Laurie Bird, the friendship of Paul Simon, while others showed the joy of returning to music.

He reportedly has plans to release a second book sometime in 2010.

Personal life

Garfunkel married Linda Marie Grossman in 1972; they divorced in 1975. He has claimed that the marriage was turbulent and ended bitterly. Garfunkel has never spoken to her since and claims he never loved her. ] He was also romantically involved with actress and photographer Laurie Bird until her suicide in 1979. According to a 1986 interview, Art said about his relationship with Laurie Bird "I asked myself constantly why I didn't marry her, because surely she was the apple of my eye. She was everything I was looking for in a woman. But I was very hurt by my first marriage, so as far as marriage to Laurie was concerned, I was extra scared. I was heartbroken. It laid me low. I used to get very sad when the sun went down. The nights were very lonely for me."

Garfunkel had a brief affair with actress Penny Marshall in the mid 1980's and credits her with helping him through his depression. Their friendship stayed strong even after the relationship's end. Garfunkel would later say of Marshall, "Everything changed. Penny is a sweet human being who can bring anybody down to earth. We had a lot of laughs, great sex and a ton of party nights". ] In fall of 1985, Garfunkel met former model Kathryn (Kim) Cermack while shooting Good To Go. They married on 18 September 1988. Despite the seventeen year age difference, the two have been married for over twenty years.

The two have two children, James, born 15 December 1990 and Beau Daniel, born 5 October 2005 via a surrogate mother.

Garfunkel is an avid reader and bibliophile; his website contains a year-by-year listing of every book he has read since 1968. Currently the list contains more than 1,000 books. He has also read the entire Random House Dictionary.

Garfunkel is a huge fan of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, having twice read his book Confessions (according to his library, the book was the first and thousandth book he'd read).

Garfunkel has undertaken several cross-continental walks in his lifetime, writing poetry along the way. In the early 1980s, he walked across Japan in a matter of weeks. From 1983 to 1997, Garfunkel walked across America, taking 40 excursions to complete the route from New York City to the Pacific coast of Washington. In May 1998, Garfunkel began an incremented walk across Europe.

His all-time favorite pop song is Paul McCartney's "Here, There and Everywhere" and his all-time favorite album is Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. When asked about his musical preferences, he answered, "I have a very sure-footed sense of what I like, and exactly how much I like it. Give me two listenings of a song, and I can tell you exactly how it sits with me, and...I know my musical taste. I know my ears, I know what I respond to."

Garfunkel has been arrested twice for the possession of cannabis: once in early 2004 and again in August 2005.

Garfunkel is the brother of Jerome Garfunkel, the former member of the American (ANSI) and International (ISO) Committees who wrote the specification for the COBOL programming language. His older brother Jules B. Garfunkel was a United States Navy Veteran and financial analyst who died on September 17, 2006 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Garfunkel is 6'0 (1.83 m), which is a large contrast to Paul Simon's 5'3 (1.60 m).

Garfunkel is very religious, but said he has become more spiritual in his later years, often drawing from religious values for his poetry. (The best example being Poem 75 in Still Water)

Art Garfunkel is left-handed and is a multi-instrumentalist: he plays guitar, piano, and violin.


  • 1969 Grammy Award, Record of the Year, for "Mrs. Robinson" (with Paul Simon)
  • 1969 Grammy Award, Best Contemporary Pop Performance, for "Mrs. Robinson" (with Paul *Simon)
  • 1970 Grammy Award, Best Album, for Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • 1970 Grammy Award, Best Single Record, for "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
  • 1970 Grammy Award, Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists, for Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • 1972 Golden Globe, Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture, for Carnal Knowledge (Nominated)
  • 1977 Britannia Award, Best International Pop LP and Single, 1952–77, for "Bridge Over Troubled Water"

Work on Broadway

  • Rock 'N Roll! The First 5,000 Years (1982) - revue - featured singer for Mrs. Robinson
  • Mike Nichols and Elaine May: Together Again on Broadway (1992) - concert - performer

The Graduate (2002) - play - featured songwriter

Article author: Zipora Galitski
Article tags: biography
The article is about these people:   Arthur Garfunkel

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