ART GARFUNKEL > Role Models

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A look into Art Garfunkel’s musical heroes…

Calling all Gershwins and Berlins to reinstate basic yet untouchable melodies…

…now this really gets me going. Who is doing that? How about Burt Bacharach? He’s quirky in his rhythms and he’s really a melody guy [sings the chorus from “Alfie”]. He’s a real writer…he’s great. Stephen Sondheim. Broadway. I think about if you did “Moon River” today, would it be a hit? You gotta make the right record. Sarah McLachlan.

Give me something that’s radically wonderful…

…what am I missing? I’m sure there are great artists out there-and great records-but I have a hard time branching out to stuff. I go out and buy the new Cat Stevens album and I think, “Well, that’s really good.” I’m a Bruce Hornsby fan. There’s great stuff, no doubt about it. But who’s radically wonderful? Nobody. That’s my problem. Hey, The Beatles were a kick in the ass, to see four guys with a sense of humor with that style…and they were blue-collar, street wiseasses. They made great, sexy, joyous rock ‘n’ roll. That combination of traits was radical in fact.

My heroes, the vocalists…

…here’s the truth of all the people I was just smitten by from the beginning…Enrico Caruso. Then Johnnie Ray. Then Bing Crosby. I thought that record [sings “White Christmas”]…just resonance of the baritone…I love that. I like Vic Dimone; he had a nasality [sings “Vagabond Shoes”], kind of a hipster swing thing. And I was eight by then. Then came the goose bump, spiritual songs [sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone”]. Roy Hamilton…”You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Ebb Tide.” He had songs with such a great grandiosity. Then I started falling in love with songs on the radio that finished real big. Then I loved The Crew Cuts-“Sh-Boom.” Then came doo-wop. I loved that. I did not go for Patti Page, although I kind of liked Nat King Cole. So I loved the ‘50s doo-wop, but I still liked Buddy Holly and all that.

Widening the scope…

…for singers I went for more of a sound pastel-I was wider. The Fleetwoods. That was a very white record in the doo-wop age, and I have ears for that. I had ears for the Everly Brothers. I loved how they sang. I didn’t think much of Elvis. I liked his records OK, but as a singer he didn’t do much for me, nor did Roy Orbison.

Sinatra, Darin, and the singers vs. the stylists…
…Bobby Darin didn’t do it for me. Sinatra never did it for me. The singers…Sam Cooke. He sang great. Marvin Gaye sang great. Then Aretha sang great. These are the singers, as opposed to the stylists…Dylan and Mick Jagger…these are the stylists. Michael McDonald. I like Joan Baez.

I think it’s bogus that some-if not many-music snobs think non-songwriting vocalists aren’t authentic, artistic forces…
…here you are, American Songwriter, who empowers the creator of the song, and you just gave a break to people who sing good-who are not necessarily songwriters. I really appreciate that, because I approach the music and the art as a vocalist. I have an instrument. I’m a musician. It’s called my vocals. I’m really trying to be a first-rate musician when I go to work. Think about directors and the big screen…being in front of a camera is very similar to being in front of a mic in the recording studio. Little things mean a lot. Close-ups really can magnify, but a lot is really expression-driven. The truth…you make sure the truth in the lyric or script comes through you as an expressive human being-a relaxed, credible teller of the story, whether it’s through a script or a song. In other words, I’m saying that when you’re singing, you’re acting what that lyric is about.

Underrated songwriter…
…Maia Sharp is pretty damn good. I think she’s very hip, a serious talent. I’d like to see an upgrade in how the public perceives her.

Dream duet…
…Snoop Dogg.

Just give the song a chance to grow…
…[Jobim, who wrote “Quiet Night of Quiet Stars”] does a lot of repeating on the same melody, and he lets the chords slip. And when you have so much repeating, and line after line of this constant melody-that’s very limited-all of a sudden it just leaps melodically. It’s full of notes. And then the scale melody gives you the payoff of what he’s talking about.

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