The Sound of Silence has come to encapsulate an entire era.
But would you believe the song was actually a failure at first?
The entire album sold only 3000 copies and Simon and Garfunkel actually gave up working together as a result.
It was only after two producers altered the song behind the singers’ backs that it went on to find success.
But Paul Simon’s lyrics were never changed.
There are a number of theories about the Sound Of Silence lyrics meaning, but Simon himself has explained exactly what he was thinking when he wrote them.
Keep reading for the full lyrics, and a thorough explanation of their meaning. We will also go into the interesting beginnings of the song.
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The Sound Of Silence Lyrics And Meaning
The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel has been with us for almost our entire lives. It has become one of the biggest musical successes from the 1960s in the United States and the rest of the West.
It was an unexpected knock on the folk-rock movement of the moment, which would forever consecrate Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel into music history. They are now one of the most famous duos in music, despite everything.
Here are the lyrics to The Sound of Silence in full. Below, we will get into the meaning of the lyrics.
The Sound Of Silence Lyrics
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
Still remains 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 shared
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
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 the subway walls and tenement halls
And whispered in the sound of silence”
The Sound Of Silence Meaning
Paul Simon took several months to compose The Sound of Silence. He tried to show the absurdity of man’s lack of communication with his neighbor.
Of course, this comes from a man who was known to fight with his song partner from time to time!
Specifically, the song speaks of silence as a cancer and proposes that problems can only be solved honestly and without hiding anything.
Simon recounted in an interview on National Public Radio (NPR), that he wrote the song one day after college. “Songs are not just what the words say, but what the melody and sound say. If you don’t have a correct and singable melody, it doesn’t matter what you have to say, because people aren’t going to listen to it”, he affirmed.
There have been multiple theories about the meaning of this song. For example, some believe it is related to the death of JFK or the Vietnam War. But many think it is something simpler. And the author himself has verified that it has to do with something as simple as lack of communication.
As many musicians often say: “The difficult thing is to make the simple things.” This song is one of the most obvious examples.
In the author’s opinion, “the key to The Sound of Silence is the simplicity of the melody and the words”. He noted that the song achieved its final version on February 19, 1964.
Paul Simon assures that it is a youthful letter from a 21-year-old boy, filled with a kind of youthful alienation and post-adolescent angst, obtained from “reading a text from the university or something”.
From Failure To Success
Paul and Art were high school classmates in Forest Hills in the late 50s, but it was not until a few years later, in the mid 1960s, that they began to realize that it could be a serious partnership.
Paul Simon was the lyricist of the song. He composed it between 1963 and 1964. From the partners got a contract with Columbia. They recorded their debut album in the studios of the record company.
The record was based solely on the voices of the singers and the acoustic guitar of Mr. Simon.
The song, with its clear folk tone, and the rest of the album, were released in October 1964. It did almost nothing. It barely sold 3,000 copies. As a result, Paul Simon left for London and Art Garfunkel decided to continue with his college education.
Months later, The Sound of Silence begins to play on radio stations in Massachusetts and Florida. The producer of the song, Tom Wilson, decided to take it to another producer, Bob Johnston, to give new life to the song.
And they did just that. The problem is that they did it behind the authors’ backs. Despite their success of the song, Simon and Garfunkel were never able to forgive them for that.
But there is no denying that the changes they made changed the fate of the song. They introduce more percussion and achieved a more electric sound.
Version two of The Sound of Silence was released in September 1965. And it was a hit, going so far as to become the emblem of the folk-rock movement of the time.
The Sound Of Silence Lyrics And Meaning: Final Thoughts
The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel ended up being the sound of a movement, in fact an entire era. The lyrics were always hotly debated, and still are, even though Paul Simon has told us exactly what they mean.
The reason for that is that they can apply to a number of major events that happened around the time Simon wrote them. In fact, this ability to universally apply to a number of situations is probably a major reason for the longevity and continued popularity of the song.
Another song that captured an era was American Pie by Don Henley. Read our analysis of the American Pie lyrics meaning for more.
For a similar song in feeling and mood, you might want to take a look at our article on the lyrics and meaning of Both Sides, Now by Joni Mitchell.
Fleet Foxes also have a song about friendship and losing friends. See this look at the White Winter Hymnal lyrics and their meaning for much more on that song.
And finally, we also did one of these articles on another Simon and Garfunkel hit. You can find our analysis of the Mrs Robinson lyrics meaning here.
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