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Hebrew School Songs Helped Art Garfunkel Realize His ‘Gift From God’

The crooner will play a solo show in Israel on Wednesday

Jonathan Zalman
June 09, 2015
Getty Images
Art Garfunkel performs in Dublin, Ireland, March 9 2003.Getty Images
Getty Images
Art Garfunkel performs in Dublin, Ireland, March 9 2003.Getty Images

On Wednesday, Art Garfunkel—sans Paul Simon—will give a concert in Jaffa. But Garfunkel, who lost his voice in 2010, said on Monday that he will perform with “a great singer, my son Arthur Jr., because he is so damn good.”

Garfunkel’s lively presser took place at the luxurious Dan Hotel, where I imagine the peaceful crooner wakes up every beautiful Israeli morning to eat various figs and cheeses and Sprite, before heading to the beach for a long pensive stroll. Here are some highlights:

— A journalist asked Garfunkel to comment on his recent interview in The Telegraph, in which he addresses his split with Simon and whether or not they’ll tour together again. In the piece, Garfunkel calls Simon, reflectively, a “jerk” and an “idiot.” As a response, Garfunkel stood and said:

If you ask me a lot of questions about Paul Simon, and Simon and Garfunkel, I’m not going to feel that you’re interested in me. I would like your interview to be about my career and my work and naturally Simon and Garfunkel is part of that. But you make me feel bad when you bring up something I said to the press…

— Another journalist how Garfunkel, now 73 years old, prepares for his tour:

I do what I always do. I put my iPod on and I sing to James Taylor and to Chet Baker.

— When asked if there’s a chance he might reunite on stage with Simon, Garfunkel give what he calls a “standard answer, the real answer:”

It takes two to tango.

— And then, Garfunkel gets asked about his Jewish roots:

I went in Hebrew School in 1948, an important year in the history of this country. I was a little seven-year-old, going to Hebrew School. I didn’t really love Hebrew School. But on Saturday mornings, I was singing, and the rabbi taught me some things to sing… I realized I have a gift from God. It’s a lucky thing. And when I sing these minor key ancient melodies—[Garfunkel hums a riff]—I could see that people relate to it, and I began to realize at that early age [that] these Hebrew words are useful to me as a singer.

— “Do you still go to synagogue from time to time?” a journalist asked Garfunkel.

Very little. They make me pay money when I go. I don’t like that.

— One last zinger:

I’m not a star. I’m a singer who can sing very well if he can get his sleep.

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.