December 9, 2014 | « back

FORBES.COM — Art Garfunkel On Hats, Pizza And Harmonies With James Taylor

By Jim Clash

In the first five parts of this interview series with the great singer/songwriter Art Garfunkel, we covered a lot of ground, much of it serious. Here, in this last installment, Artie lets his hair down (so to speak) and we discuss fun stuff like what’s the best hat for a man (hint: it’s not a beret), where’s the best pizza in New York (hint: near his college alma mater) and who is the best singer he’s harmonized with (four good contenders are James Taylor, Phil and Don Everly and, of course, Paul Simon).

Jim Clash: I saw a great piece on CBS CBS -3.01% This Morning where you made a joke about men’s hats.

Art Garfunkel: I wonder how many guys will understand what I was saying. You never find the right hat for life. You use the ski cap for a couple of years then, ‘ah, that’s not right.’ You can’t wear the Fedora, that’s gone, a little passé. You can’t wear a beret, though that’s very appealing if you’re an artist. There’s the baseball cap. We love the baseball cap. It’s high in front – that works. Jimmy Webb gave me a Tilley hat some years ago, cream-colored, large brim, keeps the sun off the nose so you don’t have skin problems. I wear that sometimes. The baseball cap is probably my favorite. I’m a [Philadelphia] Phillies fan so I have my red hat. If I ever found the perfect hat, I would get 30 and that would be it for life.

JC: I know you have high regard for James Taylor. Do your harmonies with him approach those with Paul Simon?

AG: The younger you are, the more experiences get under your skin. Paul and I were sixth-graders together. [DJ] Alan Freed brought this new subversive music to new-wave radio when we were 12. We tuned in in junior high school, Paul and I, and the fact that we held rehearsals in my basement at such a young age means that the musical bond is deep. When you’re very young, your passions are fanatical. You don’t know what normal is, so you go crazy with what you love. We held intense rehearsals to get our sound so tight. You speak of a Ferrari – we had our details finely tuned, if you know what I mean. And we became world-famous with that blend. Working with James Taylor was pretty good. James paid me a great compliment saying, ‘I’ve never worked with anyone who got it so well as you did.’ But even that wasn’t quite the bond I had with Paul.

JC: You also have performed with the Everly Brothers, other great harmonizers.

AG: I did. Stage work is looser than studio work. If you’re a craftsman like I am, you create these records behind closed doors with silence and a chance to repeat. You can fix and erase. So the accuracy of a tight blend goes to a higher place in a recording studio. I never recorded with Don and Phil. By the way, my top five American songwriters are Stephen Sondheim, Paul Simon, Jimmy Webb – and my vote for next President of the United States, James Taylor. The crowd applauds like they know what I’m talking about when I say that in my show [laughs]. The fifth is in my setup, and I go into Randy Newman’s tune [Real Emotional Girl].

JC: You’re a Columbia University man, as am I. The famous local pizzeria, V&T, is still a big hangout for students. There’s a rumor Mrs. Robinson was written there. First, any truth to that, and second, do you ever go back? I see your signed photo on the wall.

AG: No, Mrs. Robinson wasn’t written there – sounds like they are trying to claim me [laughs]! But I love the pizza, it’s really quite good. I introduced Jack Nicholson to V&T and it became his favorite New York spot for a while. And I do still go back. Every few months, I over-eat and get cholesterol to plug up the heart with all that cheese. But I’ve thinned out my visits over the years as I’ve become more health-conscious. I used to eat a half or whole pie, now I go for two slices. But I like the atmosphere of all those smarties around me.