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Art Garfunkel Jr. Is Keeping Simon and Garfunkel Music Alive — By Singing It in German

Art Garfunkel Jr.’s first memory of singing onstage with his father is pretty hazy, but he knows it took place in Japan sometime before his third birthday. “I believe I was pushed out in a wheelbarrow, wearing a traditional Japanese kimono,” he tells Rolling Stone. “My parents picked me up and I sang a little bit of the high part of [Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 hit] ‘Feelin’ Groovy.’”

For most children of rock stars, this would be little more than a sweet, one-off moment. For Art Garfunkel Jr., 33, it was the start of a career singing his father’s music that continues to this day. And although he’s traveled across America as part of his dad’s solo show, helping him hit high notes he can’t quite reach as an octogenarian, his career really took off a few years back in his adopted home country of Germany when he started releasing covers of his dad’s music in German. He plays shows all across Germany to large, rapturous audiences.

“I feel blessed to have been born into this family,” he says. “I’m so proud to be Art Garfunkel Jr. I’m so proud of my dad’s legacy. I walk in his footsteps.”

He’s so proud of his father that he legally changed his name — from James Arthur Garfunkel to Arthur Garfunkel Jr. a few years back. “I prefer the name, I just do,” he says. “I’m also a very international person, and Arthur is a name that is compatible with most European languages.”

Long before Germany and the name change, Garfunkel lived on New York’s Upper East Side and attended the Rudolf Steiner School. He came of age in the 1990s and early 2000s, but his music taste went back about a half century earlier. “My father made these three oldies cassette tapes when I was about when five-years-old of all of his songs that he listened to as a teenager and loved,” he says. “It was Little Richard, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, and others from the birth of rock & roll. I loved all of it. It’s my favorite music to this day.”

As a child of privilege and celebrity growing up in New York City, he had access to a Gossip Girl-like world of debauchery. But he says his teenage years were remarkably mundane. “I wish I had been wilder,” he says. “I have never touched a drug in my entire life. People should do what they want just as long as they don’t hurt anyone, but I never touch it. I never got into it, and I have no interest.”

He continues: “I think it’s a lot because my father is an absolute living legend and I’m so proud of him. Paul and Artie were good kids from Queens that didn’t fit in that typical wild rock-star lifestyle like some of their compatriots. And my father definitely instilled positive values in me. I was a more laid-back kind of guy, and I didn’t get into trouble.”

He did wind up on the cover of Rolling Stone alongside other rock star kids when he was 15 in 2005. “That was a great experience,” he says. “I remember showing up at this photo studio and I saw [Paul Simon’s son] Harper Simon who I’ve always liked, he’s a pretty cool guy. And I saw Rufus Wainwright, Ben Taylor, and many others. There was even a DJ there playing some chill music, I had a good time.”

At the time of the cover shoot, Art Jr. looked like a tiny clone of his father, complete with golden, curly locks of hair. Strangers recognized him in public, with or without Art Sr. around. It was the sort of attention that would irritate many others in his position. “I love every minute of that,” he says. “I ate it up. I really did.”

In addition to his unique hair, Art Jr. also inherited his father’s angelic singing voice. Throughout his childhood and teenage years, he’d come onstage and duet with him on Simon and Garfunkel hits, and classic covers like “Let It Be Me” by the Everly Brothers.

The appearances became slightly less regular when Art Jr. moved to Germany when he was just 16. His interest in Germany goes back to early childhood when he’d tour all over the the country with his father. “My dad has always been very popular in Germany,” he says. “When East and West Germany unified, there was a notable desire for my father’s music. They had just come out of communism and into capitalism, and they wanted to consume western music.”

His grandparents spoke fluent German and he studied the language at school, but when he was invited there in 2006 to attend the ECHO Awards — basically the Germany Grammys — he decided to stay. “My parents were very trusting of me,” he says. “I also had some family members in Europe I could rely on if I needed to.”

Art Garfunkel Sr. was still touring heavily at this time, and Art Jr. supported himself by joining him on select legs. But when Covid hit and Art Sr. stepped away from the road, Art Jr. felt it was time to finally go out on his own. He signed a record deal with BMG as a solo artist and cut an album, Wie du-Hommage An Meinen Vater [Just Like You – A Tribute to My Father], consisting entirely of Simon and Garfunkel and Art Garfunkel solo songs in German.

“I’d been toying with the idea for many years,” he says. “I love my dad’s music and I’m so proud of it. I am proud to be a German speaker, I respect and love the culture, and I wanted to bring these two parts of me together like a fusion. I felt strongly that the concept would work out, that it would be well received in my community, in my world over here.”

It features German-language versions of “The Boxer,” “The Sound of Silence,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and others. He took the lyrical translations from other German covers released in the Sixties and Seventies. “The rhymes are different,” he said. “I picked the versions I felt carried through the best in terms of translation and the message.”

To promote the album, he traveled all over Germany by station wagon. He played 51 shows last year, and appeared on numerous television programs. “I’m a one-man operation,” he says. “When the show is over, I don’t even go backstage. I usually jump off the stage and exit along with the crowd. I go right to a desk in the lobby and take like 10,000 photos with people, and sign a lot of autographs. And I always keep my eye open in case a pretty girl comes along. I’ve made wonderful new friends by just meeting people who like my music.”

The biggest cheers of the night come when he breaks out giant hits like “Bridge Over Troubled Water” or “Mrs. Robinson,” but Art Jr. says he prefers more obscure songs from the catalog like “The Dangling Conversation,” “Bleecker Street,” and “Flowers Never Bend With the Rainfall.”

He had a chance to sing some of those songs with his father at New York’s City Winery in July 2023. It was one of the few times that Art Sr. had been onstage since the pandemic began. And it’s a little preview of a tour that’s in the works for the future.

“My dad wants to get back on the road,” Art Jr. says. “He’s looking to me to embark on this next chapter with him. So that means he wants to do shows and go regularly on the road. He wants it to be a father and son show. We’ll both be carrying the show. We’re booking the tour of the States right now.”

The Garfunkel and Garfunkel tour is likely to hit theaters. A Simon and Garfunkel reunion tour, however, would fill arenas and stadiums all across the world. Such a tour may be hard to imagine because Simon retired from the road in 2018, lost much of the hearing in his left ear, and hasn’t been on good terms with Art Sr. since they last played together back in 2010. “No, out of the question,” Simon told Rolling Stone in 2016 when ask about a possible Simon and Garfunkel reunion. “We don’t even talk.”

Surprisingly, Art Jr. says Simon and Garfunkel fans shouldn’t lose all hope. “I wouldn’t count it out,” he says. “I think it’s possible. That’s me giving a little insight into something I know better about than almost anyone else. I think that it is possible, and I’d love to see it happen. I think my dad and Paul will always be best friends. There is a lot of love. They are in touch. Things are going in a good direction, and I think that the possibility is there.

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“My dad is healthy, and he hopes that God will grace him with many more years,” he continues. “Everyone in their eighties has trials and tribulations. I think Paul is getting along well enough, so I think that the chances are there. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some charity and opportunity for them to get together to help some great cause? Or maybe just Simon and Garfunkel goes back on tour the same way that Taylor Swift does. We’ll have to see. If they come to Germany, I would love to be their opening act.”

A Simon and Garfunkel featuring Art Garfunkel Jr. tour would surely cause many to label the younger Garfunkel a “nepo baby,” but that wouldn’t mean much to him. “I’ve never even heard that term,” he says. “I just feel so blessed to be part of his family. You can hate me or love me for it, but I am who I am.”

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