We love singing all of the songs of Simon & Garfunkel, it’s an absolute privilege to be able to get on stage in theatres around the world and connect with our audiences by sharing a passion for music. It’s a lovely way to communicate, even across language barriers, because, of course, music is a universal language. So it’s ironic then, that the one song I enjoy performing most is a song which is about alienation, and our lack of ability to communicate with each other, The Sound Of Silence.
This song has always fascinated me, it was of course the breakthrough song for Simon & Garfunkel and key to their story and success. Paul wrote the song when he was just 21, pretty impressive. As a teenager Paul would sit in the bathroom of his parents house with the light off and write songs because he liked the way the tiled walls would echo voice and create a natural reverb and the darkness helped him focus. He has since said that the opening line of The Sound Of Silence is a reference to this experience in his parents bathroom.
We always speak to audience members after each of our shows and the one thing that often comes up is how amazing the lyrics of The Sound Of Silence are, there really does seem to be something truly profound about the message in the song. People often say they think the song was giving a stark warning to the way we were heading, with communication breaking down. However Paul has himself admitted that the lyrics were mostly gathered from bits of reading material while at college, and that although it had some level of truth to it, he believed the main reason why it resonates with so many millions of people is because of the simple and singable melody. Indeed, I’ve often thought this about many of Paul Simon’s songs, they’re definitely open to wildly different interpretations and what would on the face of it seems like a deep, meaningful lyric, could just be Paul playing around with words that sounded nice with the melody. Take Mother And Child Reunion for instance, the title of which Paul got from the name of a dish in a restaurant in New York, a dish made with chicken and egg. Paul has admitted that he is not a poet, just a good song lyricist. But what’s truly great about his songs is the easy and addictive melodies.
Regardless of the meaning behind The Sound Of Silence, and whether Paul was trying to send a message, it’s an amazing song to listen to and an even greater one to perform. During our live performances of our show Simon & Garfunkel Through The Years, the point where we sing The Sound Of Silence marks the sudden rise to fame for Simon & Garfunkel. The room always feels electric and the audience is dead silent. It would sometimes be easy to think we were alone on stage in the darkness until the end of the song when the audience bursts into applause, often the loudest one of the entire evening.
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" said I, "You do not 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
Within 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 subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence”