The first time I heard the “Sound of Silence” was at the movie “The Graduate” starring Dustin Hoffman. The first version of the song which was written by Paul Simon was an acoustic version.
The vocalists were Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel known as Simon and Garfunkel. The song was a track on their first album which tanked. Simon and Garfunkel decided to split up. What the duo didn’t know was that their record company had a plan. Trying to take advantage of the folk-rock movement, Columbia Records had producer Tom Wilson add electric instruments to the acoustic track. Simon and Garfunkel had no idea their acoustic song had been overdubbed with electric instruments, but it became a huge hit and got them back together. If Wilson had not reworked the song without their knowledge, Simon and Garfunkel probably would have gone their separate ways. When the song hit #1 in the States, Simon was in England and Garfunkel was at college.
Mike Nichols the director of “The Graduate” put the song on as a work track and was going to replace it, but as the film came together it became clear that the song was perfect for the film. Nichols didn’t just use this song, but felt Simon & Garfunkel had a sound that fit the tone of the movie very well. They commissioned them to write “Mrs. Robinson” specifically for the movie, and also added “Scarborough Fair” and “April Come She Will” to the film.
This has a lot of meaning in the movie “The Graduate”. The lyrics refer to silence as a cancer, and if people in the movie had just been honest and not afraid to talk, all the messy things would not have happened. Problems can be solved only by speaking up honestly.
Simon & Garfunkel did not write this about the Vietnam War, but by the time it became popular, the war was on and many people felt it made a powerful statement as an anti-war song.
On the tenth anniversary of 9/11 the acoustic version sang by Paul Simon proved to be as timely as it was in the the sixties. As I listened to Paul Simon singing it during the memorial service this morning, I was mindful of the status of America today. We are in a war in the middle east, and our economy is down the toilet. Congress is acting like spoiled brats with their Tea Party members have no shame in showing contempt and disrespect for the first Black President.
Although I love the song, I think it is unfortunate for America that it’s lyrics are still relevant today.
Take a listen to Paul Simon at Ground Zero and compare it to the duo’s earlier version below and see if you agree to it as being just as relevant today.
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