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Works of Art

Glory days with Paul Simon still play big part in Art Garfunkel’s act

Art Garfunkel is a man of vast erudition, wide reading and diverse interests. So he’s not merely a guy who sang high tenor with Paul Simon. Then again, he’s certainly in no mood to disown that beloved back catalog. In fact, he seems to regard it with as much awe as any fan. “I’m a guy who wants to now look back at his five decades of body of work,” said Garfunkel, by phone from his New York home. “I, myself,

stand back with some respect over all this devotion. I’m ready to be the curator of this museum.”

So when he takes the stage at the Northern Quest for two solo shows this weekend, he said he’s thinking of going “retrospective backwards.”

“I start with a tune from my most recent album, ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ and keep going back,” said Garfunkel.

“I made 12 albums. And then I finally get to the hits with Simon and Garfunkel later on. The flow works, musically. It’s a lovely structure.”

But Garfunkel is a thoughtful man, and he’s concerned about something: Should he explain this to the audience in advance?

He said he’s worried he’ll “lose” them if he doesn’t give them “ ‘Scarborough Fair’ for the second song, third, fourth.”

Don’t worry, Art. They’ll stick with you.

He earned an entire generation of lifelong fans way back in 1965, with the release of the first Simon & Garfunkel hit, “The Sounds of Silence,” followed by a long string of hits capped by their biggest ever, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in 1970.

Then he went on to chart six hit songs on his own and build an impressive acting career (“Carnal Knowledge,” “Catch 22” and most recently “The Flight of the Conchords”).

He also:

• Has read more than 1,000 books, and lists every one of them on his Web site. His favorites range from Virgil to Marcel Proust to J.D. Salinger to St. Augustine to Carrie Fisher.

• Has walked all the way across Japan and then across America (he did it in increments from 1983 to 1997). He is about halfway through a walking trip across Europe, although he admitted that he’s having a crisis: “I don’t feel like doing it anymore. How much do I have to be held to the concept?”

• Has posted a list of his favorite classical music works, heavy on Bach (“the best guy ever in music”).

• Has posted a list of his 60 favorite pop songs ever.

And what is No. 1? No, not “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which is only No. 4, nor the “Sounds of Silence,” which is No. 18.

The winner: “Here, There and Everywhere,” by the Beatles.

“I adore it the most,” said Garfunkel. “Music, when it’s fabulous, is an intoxication. … That song is hauntingly beautiful to me, indescribably effective.”

His No. 2 song isn’t exactly haunting: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” by the Rolling Stones.

The list is filled with artists that he loved growing up, including Chuck Berry, Elvis, Ray Charles and the Everly Brothers, a duo which directly inspired a high school duo named Tom & Jerry. That’s what Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel first called themselves way back in 1957.

Tom & Jerry had a regional hit with “Hey Schoolgirl” in 1957, but Garfunkel hardly expected music to become a career. He went on to attend Columbia University in New York (“they were still wearing freshman beanie caps”) where he studied architecture and earned a fine arts degree in 1965.

Meanwhile, Vietnam and the draft were gearing up and Garfunkel needed to maintain his student deferment. He went on to get his masters degree in math at Columbia a year later.

Do that math, and you’ll realize something startling: Garfunkel was still in college during the time when he and Simon were becoming international sensations with “Sounds of Silence,” “Homeward Bound” and “I Am a Rock.”

“Meanwhile, I’m having hit records and going out and doing shows on the weekend and chasing girls,” said Garfunkel. “… I was schizophrenic because of Vietnam. I’d go back to school and lay low, and be the student who had this hotter life outside of town on weekends.”

After even more hits ensued – “Hazy Shade of Winter,” “At the Zoo,” Fakin’ It” and “Scarborough Fair/Canticle” – he abandoned his plans for a doctorate in math. He and Simon were too busy selling millions of records.

The duo broke up in 1970 but has had numerous reunion concerts and tours, including a spirited stint in the 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concert in October. They will appear together on April 24 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Garfunkel also does a solo show every month or so. At Northern Quest, he’ll be accompanied by a four-piece combo.

He said he loves to “share the love I have for melody.”

“This is my life’s calling,” he said. “As the years go by, I get out of my own way as an entertainer, more and more.”

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