Time passes whether we want it to or not. It’s an undeniable, uncontrollable fact. It moves slowly. It speeds by. We make the most of it. We squander it. We age. (Though some of us fight it, we eventually must accept it.) But throughout life, there are moments – both good and bad – in time that become imprinted in our memories; so much so that we vividly remember a look, a touch, a smell, a sensation, a thought, a sound.
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When I was twelve, my grandfather bought a Yamaha acoustic guitar for me. Receiving it was a huge deal for me; it was the first “expensive” thing I ever owned. I loved it and appreciated the trust that was put into me to care for it. I took lessons and played for years. Sometime in high school, however, I simply stopped. I don’t know why. I just did.
I still have the guitar and, although I don’t play anymore, I refuse to give it away. It’s mine; a valuable and prized possession. Every once in a while I take it out of its case, polish its glossy woods, strum a few chords, and am disgusted with myself for letting it get out of tune. Why did I stop playing? I make the necessary adjustments and begin to finger pick some melodies that I learned almost forty years ago.
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The song I initially mastered was “The Sound of Silence” by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. It was on the “Simon and Garfunkel’s Great” album – the first I ever owned. Thanks to my parents’ influence, I was crazy about their sound, their songs, and even them…two New York Jewish boys who met in the sixth grade, found their niche, and made it big. I was a huge fan. Aside from “The Sound of Silence,” my all-time favorites were “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Scarborough Fair.”
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Last week, in a rare moment of spontaneity, my husband got tickets for “An Intimate Evening with Art Garfunkel” at Georgia State University’s Rialto Theatre. We were really excited to hear him again. The only other time we had the pleasure was at the “Old Friends” reunion concert of Simon and Garfunkel in 2003 at Atlanta’s Phillips Arena.
We were a bit surprised by how easy it was to secure last minute seats, and even more so when we looked around and realized that the theatre was much less than full. But, we didn’t care…maybe his music was wasted on the young anyway. We were there to hear Art and to be transported back in time.
When Art came out on the stage, he joked about the fact that he isn’t tall (he only appeared tall way-back-when because Paul was only 5’1”); that he doesn’t have a full head of hair (he’s mostly bald now); and that his hair isn’t blond (what’s left of it is white.) But when he started to sing, no one chuckled. No one sang along. A tightness started to form in my chest…my eyes started to sting as a blinked back tears…Art Garfunkel had lost his voice!
It was a very sad evening. In the dark of the theatre, my husband squeezed my hand. (Later in the car, I sobbed!) As a result of a sudden onset of vocal paresis three years ago, the natural tenor could no longer hit the high notes for which he was famous. (Talk about the sound of silence!) Not one of his songs sounded like the Art we wanted to hear and remember. Honestly, part of me wanted to flee; but more of me wanted to stay to show solidarity and support.
Art Garfunkel was born in 1941. He’s a year younger than my mother. He’s a delightful aging man who had a great ride. In his lifetime, he got to meet a lot of interesting and talented people, and did amazing things. He has no regrets. He still is a wonderful poet and songwriter. For me, however, the loss of his voice is on par with the loss of youth; the end of a generation; the realization that – eventually – it all has to end.
“Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme…Remember me to one who lives there…she once was a true love of mine.”