The Sounds Of Silence

June 19, 2024

This month I’m focusing on Rock Songs of the 60s.

Today our song is:  The Sounds Of Silence

Wikipedia tells us this about the song:

Simon and Garfunkel had become interested in folk music and the growing counterculture movement separately in the early 1960s. Having performed together previously under the name Tom and Jerry in the late 1950s, their partnership had dissolved by the time they began attending college. In 1963, they regrouped and began performing Simon's original compositions locally in Queens. They billed themselves "Kane & Garr", after old recording pseudonyms, and signed up for Gerde's Folk City, a Greenwich Village club that hosted Monday night performances. In September 1963, the duo's performances caught the attention of Columbia Records producer Tom Wilson, a young African-American jazz musician who was also helping to guide Bob Dylan's transition from folk to rock. Simon convinced Wilson to let him and his partner have a studio audition; their performance of "The Sound of Silence" got the duo signed to Columbia.

The song's origin and basis are unclear, with some thinking that the song commented on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, as the song was recorded three months after the assassination, although Simon & Garfunkel had performed the song live as Kane & Garr two months before the assassination. Simon wrote "The Sound of Silence" when he was 21 years old, later explaining that the song was written in his bathroom, where he turned off the lights to better concentrate. "The main thing about playing the guitar, though, was that I was able to sit by myself and play and dream. And I was always happy doing that. I used to go off in the bathroom, because the bathroom had tiles, so it was a slight echo chamber. I'd turn on the faucet so that water would run (I like that sound, it's very soothing to me) and I'd play. In the dark. 'Hello darkness, my old friend / I've come to talk with you again.'" According to Garfunkel, the song was first developed in November 1963, but Simon took three months to perfect the lyrics, which were entirely written on February 19, 1964. Garfunkel, introducing the song at a live performance (with Simon) in Haarlem (Netherlands), in June 1966, summed up the song's meaning as "the inability of people to communicate with each other, and not particularly internationally but especially emotionally, so that what you see around you is people who are unable to love each other."

Garfunkel's college roommate, Sandy Greenberg, wrote in his memoir that the song reflected the strong bond of friendship between Simon and Garfunkel, who had adopted the epithet "Darkness" to empathise with Greenberg's sudden-onset blindness.

To promote the release of their debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., released on October 19, 1964, the duo performed again at Folk City, as well as two shows at the Gaslight Café, which went over poorly. Dave Van Ronk, a folk singer, was at the performances, and noted that several in the audience regarded their music as a joke. "'Sounds of Silence' actually became a running joke: for a while there, it was only necessary to start singing 'Hello darkness, my old friend ... ' and everybody would crack up." Wednesday Morning, 3 AM sold only 3,000 copies upon its October release, and its dismal sales led Simon to move to London. While there, he recorded a solo album, The Paul Simon Songbook (1965), which features a rendition of the song, titled "The Sound of Silence" (instead of "The Sounds of Silence", as on Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.)



  1. Fascinating! Funny how a song would be the butt of jokes, and then later become Simon & Garfunkel's first #1 hit.


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