Now that the American duo Simon and Garfunkel are considered classics of folk rock, it’s hard to believe that their debut album Wednesday Morning 3 AM was a flop. The debut acoustic album of young performers sold a miserable two thousand copies. The failure so upset Paul Simon and Arthur Garfunkel that they abandoned their joint activities and went about their own business.
And then His Majesty Case intervened in the person of producer Tom Wilson, who heard the song The Sound of Silence on some local radio station. He decided that such a promising composition should not be forgotten, and ventured into a risky event. But we will talk about this a little later, but first about the history of the creation of the work, which became the key to the work of Simon and Garfunkel.
The history of the creation of the song The Sound of Silence
Paul Simon wrote the lyrics and music for The Sound of Silence. This is one of his first, still youthful, creations, on which he worked for about six months, giving out one line a day.
He recalled that he liked to play the guitar in the bathroom when he lived with his parents:
I opened the faucet for water to run – I like this sound, it calms me very much – and played. In the dark. “Darkness, hello, my old friend / I came to chat with you again.”
At that time, Paul had just entered the music industry. His duties were limited to suggesting tracks owned by the publisher to various record companies.
Next up is Simon:
I worked for them for about six months and couldn’t get a single song attached, but I still gave them a couple of my songs because I felt guilty for taking money from them. Then we had a conflict, and I said: “Listen, I’m leaving, and I will not give you a new song.” And the song I just wrote was The Sound of Silence. I thought, “I’ll just publish it myself,” and from that moment on, all my songs belong to me, so it was a successful conflict…
National Public Radio
Art Garfunkel recalled the first time he heard and perceived The Sound of Silence:
Ah, what a melody! Sound of Silence has more melodic, genius, simple power than I ever realized. Years go by, and this simple melody catches more and more … I did not understand this before. When it came out, I knew it was a good sounding record… It was Paul’s sixth song. He came to my apartment on Amsterdam Avenue, where cockroaches ran around the kitchen, and there he played his songs to me. When he got to this one, I said, “This one is the best so far!”
Music Radar, 2012
Release and achievements
The track, originally called The Sounds of Silence, was included in the Wednesday Morning 3 AM album, which, as mentioned above, did not gain fame.
And now back to producer Tom Wilson, who was one of the first to see the emerging demand for folk rock. He hired session musicians who recorded drums, bass and electric guitar parts for him for a modern arrangement of The Sound of Silence. Without warning either Simon or Garfunkel, he released a new version of the song as a single.
Paul learned about the incident from Billboard magazine while he was with a girl in the UK. The author’s new version of the song did not impress:
She was in that Byrds 12-string electric style. It’s funny. They took away the power of the text and remade it to suit fashion trends.
However, it turned out that the public liked the track, and the song soared to the top of the charts. After that, Simon and Garfunkel decided to return to co-creation. In January 1966 they released their second album, which they called Sounds of Silence. The further history of the group is full of glorious achievements, but we will talk about them in other articles.
Meaning of The Sound of Silence
So, what is The Sound of Silence about? Many fans of the duet Simon & Garfunkel mistakenly believe that the composition is dedicated to the Vietnam War.
In fact, it is about the lack of normal human communication in modern society. There is a version that Simon wrote it, being under the impression of the assassination of President Kennedy.
Paul did not hide the fact that one of the sources of inspiration for him was the work of Bob Dylan:
I tried my best not to fall under his influence, but it was hard. The Sound of Silence, which I wrote at the age of twenty-one, would never have been written if not for Bob Dylan.
Interestingly, in the future, Simon and Garfunkel worked with Tom Wilson and Bob Johnston, who had previously been producers of Bob Dylan.
Paul explains the incredible popularity of the composition as follows:
The success of The Sound of Silence lies in the simplicity of the music and the words, which speak of youthful alienation. It’s a youth text, but it’s not bad for 21 year olds. These are not thoughts of an experienced person, but thoughts that I gleaned from material I read in college. This is not to say that I personally experienced all this on some deep, fundamental level … it was post-pubertal anxiety, but there was something real in it that resonated with millions of people. Pretty much because the song had a simple melody that was easy to sing along to.
The Sound of Silence has been featured on several well-known lists and rankings, including Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. BMI ranked it as the eighteenth most performed song of the twentieth century.
On the other hand, Blender listed The Sound of Silence as one of the worst songs of all time.
Of the numerous covers of the song, the band’s version, Disturbed, achieved the most chart success.
- A slightly altered first line of the song is used on Save the Life of My Child from Bookends.
- The song is featured in the film The Graduate starring Dustin Hoffman.
The Sound of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel Lyrics
Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence.
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence.
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
people talking without speaking,
people hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.
“Fools,” I said, “You don’t know.
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you.
Take my arms that I might reach you.”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming.
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence.”
The Sound of Silence Lyrics Simon & Garfunkel Lyrics
Darkness, hello, my old friend,
I came back to chat with you
A vision crept up on me
While I slept and was born
Doubt in my head
It’s still there
In the sound of silence
In restless dreams I wandered
Alone on narrow pavements,
Under the light of street lamps
Cold and damp forced to raise the collar,
When suddenly a neon light hit my eyes,
Breaking through the darkness of the night
And he touched the sound of silence
In that light I saw
Ten thousand people or even more
People who spoke without words
People who listened without hearing
People who wrote songs that no one will sing
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
“Fools,” I said, “you don’t understand
That silence grows like a cancer
Hear my words that can teach you something
Take my hands so I can reach you.”
But my words are gone like silent raindrops
And echoed in the well of silence.
And those people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And a warning sign flashed
It formed into words that read:
“The words of the prophets are written on the walls of the subway
And hallways of rented apartments
And whispered in the sounds of silence”