The Sound of Silence Redux

Simon and Garfunkel will forever be remembered for their prophetic song, The Sound of Silence. Paul Simon wrote the memorable song in 1964 when he was just 21. It wasn’t an instant hit, though. In fact, when the album was released in October 1964, it hardly caused a ripple.  Disappointed, Simon and Garfunkel parted ways, with Simon moving to the UK, joined occasionally by Garfunkel to sing a few gigs now and then. 

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel ,1968.

Then a miracle happened. The song was picked up by disc jockeys in parts of the US who they began to air it. Then, Tom Wilson, the producer of the failed album got the idea of asking Bob Dylan’s backing band to dub a rock rhythm section over Simon and Garfunkel’s folk rendition. It worked. The song came back to life. The new Sound of Silence, released in September 1965, topped the charts, becoming the No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending January 1 1966. Interestingly, Simon learned of this only when he picked up Billboard Magazine one Saturday while in England. Soon, the duo reunited and produced an album which includes another take of “Sound of Silence” and other legendary hits. 

Paul Simon’s masterpiece is now on Rolling Stone’s definitive list of 500 of the greatest songs of all time, a cultural touchstone that speaks of alienation in a fast-changing world of the sixties. Technology and tastes have certainly changed beyond recognition since the sixties, but human nature have not. Which is why, reading the lyrics, the Sound of Silence still resonates today as it did in Simon and Garfunkel’s time.

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
No one dare
Disturb the sound 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.

Sound of Silence has been sung by many singers since the original performance by Simon and Garfunkel in 1964. But here is a particularly haunting and powerful rendition by David Draiman, lead singer of the American heavy metal band, Disturbed, from their 2015 album, Immortalized.

Leave a Reply