Arthur Ira “Art” Garfunkel (born November 5, 1941) is a Grammy Award-winning American singer and Golden Globe-nominated actor best known for his partnership with Paul Simon in the folk rock duo Simon & Garfunkel.
Garfunkel was born in Forest Hills, Queens, New York City, the son of Rose (née Pearlman) and Jacob “Jack” Garfunkel, a traveling salesman. Art is a middle child with two brothers; the older named Jules and the younger named Jerome.
Jacob’s parents had originally immigrated to America at the turn of the century, and chose to settle in Manhattan. Before his career in sales, Jacob worked as an actor in Dayton, Ohio. Garfunkel is Jewish; his paternal grandparents emigrated from Iasi in Romania.
At his Bar Mitzvah in 1954, Garfunkel sang as a cantor and performed over four hours of his repertoire to his family. As a young teen, Garfunkel was struck with a lung infection, leading to a love for basketball. He explained in a 1998 Interview: “In the summer of ’55, I had a lung infection.
I couldn’t run around, but I loved basketball and there was a hoop nearby. Much of the summer I spent methodically hitting 96, 98 foul shots out of 100. Then 102! I never played on a team after Junior High School. Just 3 against 3, half court pick up games in the schoolyard.”
He met his future singing partner Paul Simon in the sixth grade at PS 164, when they were both cast in the elementary school graduation play, Alice in Wonderland. It has been said by Garfunkel that Simon first became interested in singing after hearing Garfunkel sing a rendition of Nat King Cole’s “Too Young” in a school talent show.
He was also romantically involved with actress and photographer Laurie Bird from March 1974 until her suicide in 1979. In a 1986 interview, Garfunkel said “I asked myself constantly why I didn’t marry her, because surely she was the apple of my eye.
She was everything I was looking for in a woman. But I was very hurt by my first marriage, so as far as marriage to Laurie was concerned, I was extra scared. I was heartbroken. It laid me low. I used to get very sad when the sun went down.
The nights were very lonely for me.” Garfunkel had a brief affair with actress Penny Marshall in the mid-1980s and credits her with helping him through his depression. Their friendship stayed strong even after their romantic relationship ended. Garfunkel would later say of Marshall, “Everything changed. Penny is a sweet human being who can bring anybody down to earth. We had a lot of laughs, great sex, and a ton of party nights.”
In the spring of 1990, at the request of the US State Department, Art performed before 1.4 million people at an outdoor rally to support and promote democracy in Sofia, Bulgaria. Enjoying the experience of live performances, Art began touring Europe, Asia and the United States in the early Nineties.
“I had horrible stage fright, but just going out there and doing it night after night has brought my adrenaline down to a manageable place. Now I feel I’m just coming into my prime as a stage performer.”