Art Garfunkel

Art Garfunkel

Born in Forest Hills, NY, Arthur Ira Garfunkel grew up loving music and experimented with taping his own singing courtesy of a wire recorder his father gave him at the age of four. As a teen, he met a fellow music-loving classmate, Paul Simon, and after years of practice, the two became a highly polished vocal duo. Known as "Tom and Jerry," the pair made the rounds until they landed a record contract in 1957. Their first 45, which they co-wrote, was called "Hey Schoolgirl," and became a modest hit, leading the high school seniors to an appearance on "American Bandstand" (WFIL-TV, 1952-57; ABC, 1957-1987; syndicated, 1987-88; USA Network, 1989). Ever practical, Garfunkel went to college, earning an art history degree from Columbia College and eventually a master's degree in mathematics from Columbia University. Although he recorded a few singles in college under the name "Artie Garr," it was not until he reunited with Simon in 1962 that their music careers took off into the stratosphere.The debut album for Simon & Garfunkel, 1964's Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. was not an immediate hit, but after producer Tom Wilson made some tweaks to the eerily powerful "The Sound of Silence," it shot to No. 1 on the Billboard pop charts and would end up their second most popular song. Cresting the folk music wave at the time, Simon & Garfunkel would go on to dominate the remainder of the 1960s with the era-defining albums Sounds of Silence (1966), Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme(1966), Bookends (1968) and Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970), and an incredible string of hit songs, many of which became pop standards, including "Homeward Bound," "I Am a Rock," "Kathy's Song," "A Hazy Shade of Winter," "Scarborough Fair/Canticle," "The Boxer," "Cecilia," and their penultimate hit, "Bridge Over Troubled Water." They also dominated the contributions to the soundtrack of Mike Nichols's seminal film "The Graduate" (1967), which was powered by the Grammy-winning No. 1 classic "Mrs. Robinson."Although Simon was always the creative force powering the pair as well as the duo's main songwriter, it was Garfunkel's distinctive harmonies and soaring countertenor voice that marked the group's haunting sound - best exemplified on "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Together, they won a total of five Grammys, and "Bridge" earned the prestigious Britannia Award for "Best International Pop LP and Single, 1952-77." The duo's 1972 Greatest Hits sold 14 million copies, and they eventually earned inclusion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the music industry's all-time most popular and acclaimed duos, but their world-changing collaboration was not without strife, and their professional and personal relationships were rocky and fraught with a long-simmering tension that grew more pronounced over time.While still performing with Simon, Garfunkel notched acting roles in two additional Mike Nichols films: "Catch-22" (1969) and "Carnal Knowledge" (1971). The latter role, which saw him playing Sandy, the lifelong friend and sexual rival of Jonathan (Jack Nicholson), an aging ladies' man, earned Garfunkel a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He worked for a brief period as a math teacher in Connecticut, but in 1973 released his solo debut, Angel Clare, which launched the modest hit "All I Know." From 1975's Breakaway, his heavily buzzed-about collaboration with Paul Simon, "My Little Town" became another hit, as did the title track and a cover of "I Only Have Eyes for You." He struggled to maintain a chart presence with subsequent releases and suffered a devastating personal blow with his longtime girlfriend, actress/photographer Laurie Bird, committed suicide in June 1979 in the couples' apartment. For a time, he dated actress Penny Marshall, while her best friend, Carrie Fisher, dated and eventually married Paul Simon in 1983. As Garfunkel's professional fortunes sunk, Simon's skyrocketed, and the two reunited for 1981's The Concert in Central Park, which became a massive hit and broke attendance records at that time. Shortly thereafter, the two began a tour. Their feud exploded again, however, when Simon erased Garfunkel's vocals from a planned studio recording reunion project and released it as a Simon solo album, which became 1983's Hearts and Bones. Although he continued to occasionally record and perform music, Garfunkel largely faded from the public eye, with his subsequent albums failing to attract much critical or commercial attention. An ugly moment occurred during the duo's 1990 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, when Simon made a loaded comment during the ceremony regarding what he perceived as Garfunkel riding his coattails to success. Despite his impressive success, as the heyday of Simon & Garfunkel became more and more distant, Garfunkel had to contend with constantly being compared to Simon, and was used as a pop culture punchline that highlighted the distance between them professionally.Simon expressed a more mature sentiment when he was inducted as a solo artist into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, thanking Garfunkel and expressing a desire to make peace with him eventually. Garfunkel continued to record music, performing the theme song for "Brooklyn Bridge" (CBS, 1991-93) and making a musical appearance on the children's animated series "Arthur" (PBS Kids, 1996-). Simon & Garfunkel reunited again for a special Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and subsequent world tour that lasted from 2003-04. Adding some colorful touches to his public image, Garfunkel was arrested for cannabis possession in both 2004 and 2005. In 2006, he released an album of pop standards, Some Enchanted Evening. For the most part, the animosity between the pair seemed to have cooled, and they performed many shows together though the end of the first decade of the 21st century, culminating in the announcement of a 2010 North American tour that would incorporate their duo and solo work alike. Unfortunately, Garfunkel was stricken with vocal cord paresis and the tour had to be canceled. In the meantime, Garfunkel had been keeping his creative juices alive, successfully embarking on a series of excursions to complete a virtual "walk across America" and enjoying a critical and commercial reevaluation. He had kept a toe in the acting pool, as well, making small appearances over the years in the films "Boxing Helena" (1993) and "54" (1998) as well as notching appearances on "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004) and "American Dreams" (NBC, 2002-05). By Jonathan Riggs