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NIGHT LIFE / THE CLUB SCENE

Art Garfunkel Working Hard and Feelin' Groovy : The legendary singer is on another tour and recording his eighth solo album. He will perform Tuesday at the Ventura Theatre.

June 10, 1993|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This guy has The Voice. He is so good that you'll be embarrassing your entire species if you attempt to sing along with him in the shower. He's Art Garfunkel, the guy who used to hang out with Paul Simon. Garfunkel alone will be at the venerable Ventura Theatre on Tuesday.

Garfunkel met Simon in the late '50s. They called themselves Tom & Jerry and had a moderate hit with "Hey, Schoolgirl," which got them a gig on "American Bandstand."

In 1962, the duo dumped the MGM cartoon characters and became themselves. Then they had about 97 million hits (or was that how much money they made?) during the '60s. "I Am a Rock," "Homeward Bound," "Mrs. Robinson," "The 59th Street Bridge Song" and "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," among others, live long and prosper on FM radio. Although they both sang, the specialization of labor on Simon & Garfunkel efforts was obvious. Simon wrote; Garfunkel sang.

Since the breakup, they have done a number of reunion shows, with another one scheduled for the near future. The Memorial Reunion show was in 1983 in Central Park, which attracted several hundred thousand fans.

Without Simon, Garfunkel stayed busy by appearing in a number of films such as "Catch-22," "Carnal Knowledge" and the upcoming "Boxing Helena," which may force Kim Basinger to sell a town or two in Georgia. Garfunkel at 51, tenor intact, is at work on his eighth solo album, and feelin' groovy.

Take it away, Art.

Sorry I'm late, but I've been working on a Simon & Garfunkel series of shows, and I'm at this law office right now. These things can be real tricky. You try to use your subjectivity objectively. It's tricky. OK, you take it.

What's the story on this tour?

Well, I'm a singer. I gotta sing. It's great to be in the studio doing a fundamentally beautiful thing. When your throat is rested, it's a great feeling to surf off these vocal chords. It's really a genuine kind of thrill.

So I assume you have a band?

Yes, a five-piece. My wife's in the band, too.

Are there Garfunkel T-shirts?

I don't think so.

So, you'll be doing Simon & Garfunkel songs?

Sure, I can do Simon & Garfunkel songs. I can do "Scarborough Fair." Why not? I love those songs. I feel very affectionate about them. They seem to have a life of their own.

You started singing when you were 4?

My parents used to sing a little bit, and I guess I got a feeling for it from them. Some people just are musical. When I was growing up in the '50s, my music was Patti Page, Perry Como and Roy Hamilton. I sang in the synagogue and won the fourth-grade talent contest. I was identified as the neighborhood singer. Paul Simon, who lived a few blocks away, had heard of me.

You guys appeared on "American Bandstand" in the '50s as Tom & Jerry--what was that like?

I was just trying to keep from throwing up and to keep my lip from quivering. Dick Clark asked us where we were from, and Paul said he was from Georgia. Then I remember we had to vote on a record. When we walked in, I remember huge stacks of mail for the dancing kids. They were real celebrities. Jerry Lee Lewis was also on the show; "Great Balls of Fire" had just came out. It was 1957.

You guys went door to door with your demo tape. Would that still work today?

I think it would, especially if the demo is sustainable during the first 60 seconds. Talent will sell.

You've sang songs, made movies and written poetry. What do you like best?

Sing. My primary self-image is that of a singer.

Tell me an Orson Welles story from "Catch-22."

He wasn't such a friendly guy. He'd just sit around and tell old stories. On the set, he'd sort of take over things like the art director or something.

What's the story on "Boxing Helena" and Batman's girlfriend?

Well, when she didn't show up, they thought they got burned, but now they're happy. There will be a major release in September and it'll be showing in a lot of houses.

Nine million bucks would make my day, too. So, who do think has a good voice?

Michael McDonald kills me. Aretha has a great voice. Kenny Loggins isn't bad. I think Phil Collins has a wonderful rock edge to his voice. Mathis in his heyday, and Streisand, right up to this day, is the most exciting of all.

How many times have you been asked why you haven't written more songs?

A lot. It's sort of asking for trouble, but when someone's as talented as Paul, it's easy to stand aside. I have written some prose poems, and I like my stuff, and there is a writer inside me somewhere. The singer is just an interpreter, not the artist.

How's the New York scene?

I don't hang out in the clubs much because we're raising a kid. I have dinner with my friends, go to Central Park in the daytime; that's about it.

What was it like in Central Park playing for a zillion people?

Fantastic. A half a million people told us we did something right in the '60s. We did it right. Those people really loved what we did. The gate--that's your review.

Did you and Don King go to the same barber?

No man, he's got a little more corkscrew than I have. I just let mine grow a little. C'mon, now.

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