What is the meaning of The Sound of Silence? Fans and critics have debated this question for years. Some say it’s a song about the Vietnam War, while others think it’s a song about a man’s search for inner peace. In this blog post, we will look at the various meanings suggested for “The Sound of Silence” and discuss which interpretation seems most accurate. We’ll also share our thoughts on what we think the song is about.
Now that American duo Simon and Garfunkel are considered folk-rock classics, it’s hard to believe that their debut album Wednesday 3 AM flopped. The young performers’ debut acoustic album sold a measly 2,000 copies. The failure upset Paul Simon and Arthur Garfunkel, who abandoned their collaboration and went on with their business.
And then His Majesty Case intervened, represented by producer Tom Wilson, who had heard The Sound of Silence on some local radio station. He decided that such a promising line-up should not be forgotten and ventured out on a risky venture. But we’ll talk about that a little later, but first about the history of the creation of the piece, which became the key to Simon and Garfunkel’s work.
The Sound of Silence song creation story
Paul Simon wrote the lyrics and music for The Sound of Silence. It was one of his first creations as a teenager, and he worked on it for about six months, producing a line every day.
He recalled that he liked to play guitar in the bathroom when he lived with his parents:
I opened the faucet to let the water flow – I like that sound; it really calms me down – and played. In the darkness. “Darkness, hello, my old friend / I’ve come to chat with you again.”
At the time, Paul had just entered the music industry, and his duties were limited to offering tracks owned by the publisher to various record companies.
Simon went on to say:
I worked for them for about six months and couldn’t attach a single song, but I still gave them a couple of my songs because I felt guilty about taking money from them. Then we had a conflict, and I said: “Look, I’m leaving, and I’m not giving you a new song.” And the song I just wrote was called “The Sound of Silence.” I thought, “I’ll just publish it myself,” and from that moment on I owned all my songs, so it was a successful conflict…
Art Garfunkel recalled the first time he heard and perceived “The Sound of Silence.”
Ah, what a tune! Sound of Silence has more melodic, ingenious and simple power than I ever imagined. As the years go by, this simple tune clings more and more. I didn’t realize it before. When it came out, I knew it was a good sounding record. This was Paul’s sixth song. He used to come to my apartment on Amsterdam Avenue with cockroaches running around the kitchen and play me his songs there. When he got to it, I said: “This one’s the best so far!”
Release and Accomplishments
The track, originally called The Sounds of Silence, was included on the album Wednesday 3 AM, which, as mentioned above, did not achieve fame.
Now back to producer Tom Wilson, who was one of the first to notice the nascent demand for folk-rock. He hired session musicians to record drum, bass and electric guitar parts for his contemporary arrangement of The Sound of Silence. Without warning, Simon or Garfunkel released a new version of the song as a single.
Paul found out about the incident from Billboard magazine when he was with a girl in the UK. The new author’s version of the song did not impress:
It was in the Byrds’ 12-string electric style. Funny, and the power of the lyrics were removed and reworked to suit the 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 working together. In January 1966, they released their second album, Sounds of Silence. The further history of the band is full of glorious achievements, but we will talk about them in other articles.
The Meaning of Sounds of Silence
So, what is Sounds of Silence about? Many fans of the duo Simon & Garfunkel mistakenly believe that the composition is about the Vietnam War.
It is about the lack of regular human communication in modern society. There is a version that Simon wrote while under the impression of the assassination of President Kennedy.
Paul made no secret that one of his sources of inspiration was the work of Bob Dylan:
I tried my best not to be influenced by him, but it was hard. “Sounds of Silence,” which I wrote at the age of twenty-one, would never have been written if not for Bob Dylan.
Interestingly, Simon and Garfunkel went on to work with Tom Wilson and Bob Johnston, who had previously been Bob Dylan’s producers.
Paul explains the song’s incredible popularity as follows:
The success of The Sound of Silence lies in the simplicity of the music and the lyrics, which speak of youthful alienation. It’s a youthful lyric, but it’s not bad for a 21-year-old. These are not the thoughts of a seasoned man, but thoughts I picked up from material I read in college. I can’t say that I experienced it all on any deep, fundamental level. It was post-pubescent anxiety, but something real about it resonated with millions of people because the song had a simple melody that was easy to sing.
Slightly altered first lines of the song are used in “Save My Child’s Life from the Book Holders” .
The song was sung in the movie “The Graduate” starring Dustin Hoffman.
It took Paul Simon six months to write the lyrics to this song.
In later compilations, the song was often released as “The Sound of Silence” . The word occurs in both forms in the song.
The duo performed the song at Neil Young’s Bridge School show in 1993. They were accompanied by the not infamous Eddie Van Halen.
The song was on the soundtrack for the movie Watchmen.
The assassination of John F. Kennedy inspired the song. Many listeners thought the song was anti-war: its popularity plummeted during the Vietnam War and its performance at the 2003 Grammy Awards in Iraq. But Paul Simon denies that he put such meaning into it.