Friday, January 1, 2016

Today in Music (1966): Simon & Garfunkel hit #1 with “The Sound of Silence”

The Sound of Silence (aka “The Sounds of Silence”)

Simon & Garfunkel

Writer(s): Paul Simon (see lyrics here)

First Charted: November 20, 1965

Peak: 12 US, 11 CB, 11 GR, 12 HR, 50 AC, 1 CL, 7 UK, 2 CN, 2 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 7.0 radio, 193.0 video, 513.86 streaming

The Sound of Silence


Released: December 7, 2015

First Charted: February 6, 2016

Peak: 42 US, 17 AR, 22, 29 UK, 40 CN, 4 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.5 US, 0.6 UK, 3.45 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 7.0 radio, 846.0 video, 651.24 streaming

Awards (Simon & Garfunkel):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Disturbed):

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel started working together as teenagers in 1955, writing “The Girl for Me.” Two years, later, they recorded “Hey, Schoolgirl” as Tom and Jerry and took it to #49 on the Billboard Hot 100. They continued to work under different aliases, with minimal success. By 1964, they were performing on the Greenwich Village coffee house circuit, FB but still struggling for their break.

It came via the song “The Sound of Silence,” a ballad which featured only vocals and acoustic guitar. Simon said it took him six months to write the song, one line per day. DT He worked in the bathroom. The tiles produced an echo chamber and Simon found it soothing to work in there with the water running and the lights off, TB hence the line “hello darkness, my old friend.” TC

Simon played the completed version for Garfunkel on February 19, 1964. SS It was one of four songs on the demo that earned them a contract with Columbia Records. They recorded the album Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., which featured “The Sound of Silence,” and released it in October. Unfortunately, both the album and song went nowhere.

Simon went to England and recorded The Paul Simon Songbook, which included an acoustic version of “The Sound of Silence.” Art Garfunkel went back to graduate school. Folk music, however, was big in the Boston area, from where Joan Baez and other folkies hailed SJ and a local station started playing “The Sound of Silence.” Columbia was convinced they’d have a hit if they reworked the song with new electric instrumentation. Wilson, who was producing Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” asked the session’s musicians to add electric guitar, bass, and drums to the song.

The new, amplified version became a hit before Simon & Garfunkel even heard it. RS500 In fact, Simon didn’t even know it had been re-recorded until he picked up a copy of Billboard in the Netherlands. TC Simon said, “It had some level of truth to it and it resonated with millions of people.” DT He told NPR he thought the success of the song was due to “the simplicity of the melody and the words, which are youthful alienation.” DL The song played a key role in the 1967 movie The Graduate, “underlining the quiet alienation fo Dustin Hoffman’s character Ben.” SS

In 2015, Disturbed recorded a cover of the song. While the original was perfect for the radio playlists of middle-of-the-road, adult contemporary stations, this was a cover by a heavy metal band that turned the song into a menancing anthem as singer David Draiman’s voice builds throughout the song. Paul Simon himself endorsed the cover, calling it a “really powerful performance” WK after seeing the band on Conan.


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First posted 4/19/2020; last updated 10/11/2023.

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