Jimmy Webb On Art Garfunkel: “Art Believes In Precision.”

Songwriter Jimmy Webb speaks to MOJO about working with Art Garfunkel

Jimmy Webb On Art Garfunkel: “Art Believes In Precision.”

by MOJO Staff |
Updated on

ART GARFUNKEL – ONE HALF of the world-shaking Simon & Garfunkel team whose swansong album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, turns 50 this year – is the subject of the MOJO Interview in the magazine that hits UK shops from Tuesday, March 17.

Writing to MOJO in tribute to his friend and interpreter, master songsmith Jimmy Webb pinpointed the technical demands of Garfunkel’s seemingly effortless, gossamer delivery.

“Art believes in precision,” Webb tells MOJO. “Lyrics always must be perfect. He delivers elocution and emotional intangibles like no one else. He absolutely will not sing out of pitch. His dedication to excellence has crushed many a lesser man.”

Webb, the writer of Wichita Lineman, Galveston and MacArthur Park among innumerable classics, recalls his first meeting with Garfunkel, as the singer gathered material for a solo debut album, eventually to emerge as 1973’s Angel Clare.

“Art had been acting for a while after the break-up of Simon & Garfunkel,” recalls Webb. “He wanted to get back into music. He was calling songwriters up to San Francisco to play songs for him. All the hottest writers were there — Stephen Bishop, James Taylor, David Crosby and Graham Nash. He was discarding songs right and left. I sat at the piano and played just about everything I had. Nothing interested him. After a couple of hours, dozens of songs, and a couple of Baptist hymns had played out I remembered a song written for a girl who had broken my heart. The song had been spoiled for me as the romance soured but in a moment of desperation I pulled it out and… Art loved it. All I Know went on to be his first solo hit, Number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. We have been close friends and collaborators ever since.”

In the MOJO Interview, Garfunkel tells MOJO’s Dave DiMartino of his tense relationship with Paul Simon, his unconventional film career and his concerns over his still-angelic vocal style: “I worry that it’s too damn sensitive,” says Garfunkel, perhaps half in jest. “It’s too fragile. What’s a man doing being so… feminine, so perfect, gilding the lily on all those notes. Is that manly?”

Jimmy Webb, however, has no such reservations. “Artie is the intellectual’s intellectual. He is finely tuned to art, architecture and current events. He boasts a soft yet hypnotic singing style, which only he has truly mastered. I count him as one of my favourite people.”

Garfunkel – currently on tour in the US, with shows scheduled for April and May – recorded ten Jimmy Webb songs on his 1977 album, *Watermark, plus All I Know and Another Lullaby on Angel Clare (1973), That’s All I’ve Got To Say, In Cars and Scissors Cut on Scissors Cut (1981). But asked for his favourite Garfunkel rendition of one of his songs, Webb picks Skywriter, a live recording of which appears on Garfunkel’s quirky 1993 compilation, Up ’Til Now.

“I wrote Skywriter with Artie in mind,” says Webb. “I firmly believe in a different time and place it would have been a Number 1 hit. We both love it. It is who we are.”

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