Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Music Legend Art Garfunkel Dies On Stage

I am not quite sure where to begin this blog post because I’m still not quite sure what I just witnessed, but one thing is clear:  The singing career of Art Garfunkel is dead.

The ravages of time and aging don’t just stop athletes from playing but it also stunts entertainers from performing.  Luckily, barring blindness or Alzheimer’s or crippling arthritis, writers can continue with their craft well past the expiration date of other types of careers.

So what did I just witness over this past weekend that is so challenging to describe or admit?  I witnessed the decline of a music legend and an American hero.

The Music Hall of Fame, Grammy—winning, voice of the anti-war movement of the 60’s and 70’s came to my local Jewish Community Center to perform in front of an intimate auditorium that doesn’t even hold 500 people.  I never expected to catch him singing in a Scarsdale “arena” but figured maybe he was doing someone a favor or wanted to test new material out.  Unfortunately, the event turned into a pre-funeral.  Someone say Kaddish (a Jewish prayer for the dead).

His vocal chords have been damaged the last few years but he supposedly is improving and on the mend.  He’s not there yet and may never be.

It was like listening to someone cry, screaming for help.  I felt haunted by his desperate attempt to hold onto the stage.  Is this what happens when one ages and they fight it publicly?  I loved his work of 50 years ago and he will always be an influential force during an era when music merged rhythmically with the great social movements—civil rights, women’s rights, the drug culture, open sexuality, and anti-war.  But those days are over.

I saw Paul McCartney a few months ago at a sold out Barclay’s Center that houses 12,000 people.  He preformed two hours -- non-stop -- and sang like he was half his 70+ years.  Contrast that with Garfunkel, a man diminished by time and ego, sitting slumped on a stool for 75 minutes, his voice changing as it struggled to mirror a shadow of his former self.

It saddens me to write this.  I don’t want to insult the legend nor demean his accomplishments.  But the 72-year-old version no longer is fit for the stage.  And if the decline in his musical abilities wasn’t enough of a reason to take him out of show business it was his display of unrivaled erratic behavior.

When he first came out to the stage to a round of applause he went up to the microphone to tap it and believed it to be off.  He exited from the stage without explanation.

Ok, a little strange, but he came back a few minutes later.  But then, out of a fear or insecurity, he kept referencing throughout the show how glad he was that the microphone was working.  Why call attention to this?

At some point in the show he mentioned how he performed recently and saw someone texting in the front row, forcing him to stop the show to admonish the offender.  I don’t get it, isn’t he a pro who has performed thousands of times in front of millions of people?  How is he distracted by the audience?

Then came the moment of his Hiroshima.

About two-thirds of the way into his show, one in which included a lot of poetry reading (excellent) and later a good Q & A session that covered the breakup with Paul Simon, he stopped his performance and walked to the edge of the stage to lambast an audience member for snapping his photo twice (no flash).  It was at that moment that he was falling off the cliff, his speed accelerating to a crushing rate of unreforgiving force.  The spotlight had shifted and he was in his own darkness.

There was a ridiculous one-sided exchange and then it seemed like Garfunkel would move on.  But then, a minute into reading his poem, not once, but three times, he’d stop and again admonish the photographer, saying his concentration was broken.

It almost seemed like the show wouldn’t go on.  That may have been a merciful act.

Garfunkel was so riled by the audience member that as he sang his signature song, Sound of Silence, he stood up and turned his back to the audience.  He wanted to avoid seeing the offending audience member.  Garfunkel said he could hear the camera click twice.  I can’t imagine how a singing 72-year-old could hear that, much less be so thrown off by it.

But he did and he was.

At that point, as much as the audience wanted to kill the audience member, it wanted a referee to come out and end Garfunkel’s battle with himself.  Time has defeated the aging entertainer, the way it’s stolen the talents of other great dancers, singers, artists, actors, and genius talents.

But the show wasn’t a total waste.  It spotlighted his poetry and he promoted an upcoming book of poetry from Knopf.  And despite the sounds of his music being off balance, the meaning of his lyrics was still hanging in the air, so powerful and historical.  He sang the songs and words I was born into, back in 1967.  I felt reborn being around him, even if the performance left his career for dead.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2013

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