Check out this new piece in our Vocal Injury 101 Series – by Megan Gloss
Case: Art Garfunkel
Diagnosis: Vocal Paresis
While Simon & Garfunkel often are regarded for Paul Simon’s brilliantly crafted melodies, it’s the voice of Art Garfunkel that lends the classic folk/rock duo its signature harmonic sound.
And, though Garfunkel’s voice has been noted for changing throughout the years, it still is considered by many to be one of the most distinguishable and favored voices in the history of popular music.
After years of musical separation, Simon & Garfunkel reunited, announcing a second, long-awaited reunion tour, “Old Friends” – their first major outing since the landmark reunion tour in 2003.
Simon & Garfunkel announced the tour in Australia and New Zealand in April 2009 and added show dates in the United States and Canada a year later.
Not long after the duo’s triumphant return to the stage, Garfunkel’s powerful and poignant voice grew noticeably weary upon the launch of U.S. dates at the New Orleans Jazz Festival in April.
“It’s not that the mic is not on,” Garfunkel was quoted as telling fans at the show. “It’s that the voice is a little elusive right now.”
Four days later, the harmonic pair pushed back the rest of its April and May show dates to July, allowing Garfunkel an “adequate period of rest and rehabilitation,” according to a released statement.
But, Garfunkel’s poor vocal health forced the duo to postpone the reunion tour indefinitely:
“I do feel bad about disrupting so many people’s plans but, as I continue to mend, I can’t yet bring my “A Game” to a tour, and I would not perform for you with anything less,” Garfunkel said in a statement posted on the duo’s official website.
What is Vocal Paresis?
As it turns out, Garfunkel is suffering from a condition known as vocal paresis.
According to the Pacific Voice Clinic in British Columbia, Canada, this is a weakness that occurs in one or both of the vocal folds.
It is diagnosed by the lack of motion in one or both cords caused by a disruption of nerve supply, which paralyses the vocal fold in the mid-line, intermediate or lateral position.
A vocal fold paralyzed in the mid-line position won’t always result in significant vocal issues as glottal closure is complete.
However, in many cases, the vocal fold is paralyzed in the lateral position, resulting in a breathy, hoarse voice. Because glottal closure is incomplete, the singer also could suffer from other symptoms.
These can include hoarseness, vocal fatigue, mild to severe reduction in vocal volume resulting in effortful speaking, pain or discomfort in the throat while speaking, shortness of breath and aspiration with frequent coughing and trouble swallowing.
Reduced vocal mobility also can decrease the effectiveness of coughing, swallowing or sneezing to remove mucus wastes.
This could result in viral and bacterial infections, with an increased risk of throat discomfort.
Check out The Causes of Vocal Paresis.
Will Garfunkel Recover?
Doctors expect Garfunkel will make a full recovery; however, there is no set timetable as to when his voice will return to its full strength.
Fans continue to eagerly await word about if and when Simon & Garfunkel’s “Old Friends” tour will commence as Garfunkel continues to mend.
For singers whose voices have become “elusive,” voice specialists remind singers that it’s always a good idea to allow the voice adequate time to rest and recuperate.
If a singer is suffering from vocal paresis, there are a number of hopeful options ranging from psychological support to surgery.
As always, singers are urged to avoid prescription medications as a first defense for voice weakness; these can mask continued deterioration.
Concerned singers should and consult their doctor for a proper examination of the vocal folds.
Megan Gloss is a writer and vocalist based in the United States. Check out her article: “The Day Jordin Sparks Stopped Singing.”