The Sound of Silence

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The A-side label of the single.

The Sound of Silence, originally titled The Sounds of Silence, is a folk rock song by Simon and Garfunkel. Paul Simon wrote the song across several months from 1963 and 1964, the original acoustic version was recorded in 1964, and released on the band's debut album Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. on 1964-10-19 as track A6. Although the album sold poorly, the song had some popularity among college students, so the producer, without the band's knowledge, created an electric remix which added electric guitar, bass, and drums. This version was released as a single almost a year later on 1965-09-12 and saw much wider success and even more popularity when it was included on the soundtrack of The Graduate on 1967-12-20. After that, the single version found itself in the top ten charts of numerous countries, and hitting number one in the USA, Japan, and South Africa. The song has since been covered by dozens of artists and used in several films and television shows. In 1974, Simon released a solo acoustic version as well.

On the original acoustic version Paul Simon sings vocals and play acoustic guitar, Art Garfunkel sings vocals, Barry Kornfeld plays acoustic guitar, and Bill Lee plays double bass. On the electric version Al Gorgoni and Vinnie Bell play electric guitar, Joe Mack plays bass guitar, and Bobby Gregg plays drums. Tom Wilson produced both versions.

Paul Simon explained that the song is about the inability of people to communicate with each other, especially on an emotional level where they can't love each other. The opening lyric comes from Simon going into his bathroom and shutting off the light to compose in the dark.

Personal

My guess is that I first heard this song on the radio when I was in my teens. In my late teens, I bought Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits which included the song and it quickly became my favorite of theirs. Although I prefer the single version, there is something unique about the original acoustic version which lets you hear the exquisite vocals more clearly.

The lyrics are absolutely fantastic and create an eerie vignette in my mind. Although they paint a rather bleak picture of people unwilling to listen to each other, only a misleading bright light (television?), I see them more to be meant as a cautionary tale rather than a prophecy.

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,
Still remains,
Within the sound of silence.

In restless dreams I walked alone,
Narrow streets of cobblestone.
'Neath the halo of a streetlamp,
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,
No one dare,
Disturb the sound of silence.

"Fools," said I, "You do not know,
Silence like a cancer grow.
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 subway walls,
And tenement halls.
And whispered in the sounds of silence."

Media

Videos

Original album version.
Electric single version.
Live at Central Park, New York - 1981-09-19.

Links

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