Did you know Art Garfunkel writes poetry? More to the point, did you know that Art Garfunkel wrote anything at all? Did you know that he exists as more than a puppet that’s moved about by the strings of Paul Simon’s lyrics?
It’s ok. Admit it. You didn’t. Neither did I until a few weeks ago, when I stumbled upon Art’s book of poems, “Still Water,” at an Oak Cliff bookstore. They’re not exactly Robert Frost material, but they’re interesting, ambitious, and literary.
This started me on a Garfunkel grail quest, a search to discover all the other good qualities of this man who I, for all my undying, drooling Simon & Garfunkel adoration, actually knew very little about.
This quest got me thinking: What other members of pop music groups have been unfairly overshadowed over the years? What have we all missed out on by overlooking the quiet harmony partner or the drummer tucked away in the back of the music video?
Reader, this is my attempt to answer those questions, and to uncover the achievements of some less famous musicians from some very famous groups.
We might as well start with Garfunkel, whose been as least as productive and musically active as his partner Paul Simon. Sure, Simon’s the brilliant lyricist and impeccable guitarist, but it’s important to remember Garfunkel’s extensive gifts as well.
For evidence of those gifts, check out some of his solo work. His interpretations of songs like “A Heart In New York” and “All I Know” prove that his clarion vocals aren’t just a nice garnish on Simon’s pre-existing dishes; they stand perfectly well on their own.
In addition to his perfectly respectable recording career, Garfunkel’s also done some film work, turning in surprising dark and nuanced performances in award-nominated movies like “Carnal Knowledge.” Oh, and did I mention that poetry?
Let us now move from a contemporary pop group that defined my parents’ generation to one that defined mine: Destiny’s Child.
Believe it or not, the other members don’t just sit around in empty despair while waiting for the Queen Bey to summon them for reunion appearances. They’ve done impressive work of their own as well.
This is particularly true of Michelle Williams, who fashioned a solid career on Broadway, working hard to master vocally demanding parts in “Aida” and “The Color Purple.” Kelly Rowland, meanwhile, has found her R&B niche and judged on “The X Factor.” These girls are indeed “survivors.” So what if they’re not thriving like Beyonce? Are you?
And now, at last, we wander through the Octopus’s Garden to arrive at the big British elephant in the room: Ringo Starr.
When you’re part of a band in whicfh every other member’s putting out generation-defining work, it’s easy to get overlooked. It doesn’t help that a lot of Ringo’s solo work really is as empty and trite as all the catty music websites say it is. Albums like “Time Takes Time” and “Y Not” aren’t exactly going to resound throughout the ages.
Nonetheless, he has been known to put on great live shows. Additionally, pop music critics are now re-evaluating his place in the Beatles, coming to see him as not just a shy guy but a talented musician whose percussive techniques were really very innovative for their time.
What’s more, he played a 19th century Pope in “Lisztomania,” Ken Russell’s gonzo cinematic blend of hippie ideas and classical music history. To my knowledge, John Lennon never played a Pope.
Ultimately, this article is not comprehensive; when it comes to spotlighting overshadowed members of pop groups, this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. For every famous group leader, there is usually a less famous but equally talented musician doing their transcendent thing in the background.
When we write these people off, we’re the ones who lose something. To tune out their talents is to come way too close to the sound of silence.