The Sounds of Silence Lyrics | Simon and Garfunkel
Enjoy the Video and Sing Along to the Lyrics Below
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 shared
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
In tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence
Facts About the Song “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel
“The Sound of Silence,” originally “The Sounds of Silence,” is a song by the American music duo Simon & Garfunkel. It is said that the song was written by Paul Simon over several months in 1963 and 1964.
The duo’s studio audition of the song led to a record deal with Columbia Records, and the original acoustic version was recorded in March 1964 at Columbia Studios in New York City for their debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.
Released on October 19, 1964, the album was a commercial failure and led to the duo disbanding; Simon returned to England, and Art Garfunkel to his studies at Columbia University.
In 1965, the song began to attract airplay at radio stations in Boston and throughout Florida. The growing airplay led Tom Wilson, the song’s producer, to remix the track, overdubbing electric instruments and drums.
This remixed version was released as a single in September 1965. Simon & Garfunkel were not informed of the song’s remix until after its release.
The remix hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending January 1, 1966, leading the duo to reunite and hastily record their second album, which Columbia titled Sounds of Silence in an attempt to capitalize on the song’s success. The remixed single version of the song was included on this follow-up album.
“The Sound of Silence” was a top-ten hit in multiple countries worldwide, among them Australia, Austria, West Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands. Generally considered a classic folk rock song, the song was added to the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” in 2012, along with the rest of the Sounds of Silence album.
How the Song “Sounds of Silence” was Created
The song’s origin and basis are unclear, with some thinking that the song commented on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, as the song was recorded three months after the assassination, though Simon & Garfunkel had performed the song live as Kane & Garr two months before the assassination.
Simon wrote “The Sound of Silence” when he was 21 years old, with Simon explaining that the song was written in his bathroom, where he turned off the lights to better concentrate.
“The main thing about playing the guitar, though, was that I was able to sit by myself and play and dream. And I was always happy doing that. I used to go off in the bathroom, because the bathroom had tiles, so it was a slight echo chamber. I’d turn on the faucet so that water would run (I like that sound, it’s very soothing to me) and I’d play.
In the dark. ‘Hello darkness, my old friend – I’ve come to talk with you again.'” According to Garfunkel, the song was first developed in November, but Simon took three months to perfect the lyrics, which he claims were entirely written on February 19, 1964.
Garfunkel, introducing the song at a live performance (with Simon) in Harlem, June 1966, summed up the song’s meaning as “the inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly intentionally but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other.”
In a memoir by Sandy Greenberg, Greenberg states he believes the song reflected the strong bond he had with his college best friend, Garfunkel, who adopted the epithet “Darkness” so as to empathize with Greenberg’s sudden-onset blindness while in college, even though the song was written by Paul Simon.
About the Song Lyrics
The lyrics of the song are written in five stanzas of seven lines each. Each stanza begins with a couplet describing the setting of the scene, followed by a couplet driving the action forward and another couplet expressing the climactic thought of the verse, and closes with a one-line refrain referring to “the sound of silence”.
This structure is supported by a melodic contour, where the first and second lines are paired with the arpeggio A-C-E-D and a repeat a step lower, respectively. The arpeggio is then stretched to become C-E-G-A-G and repeated twice in the second couplet.
For the last three lines, the contour then leaps from C to the higher A, rises to the higher C, and then falls back to the A before singing the stretched arpeggio in reverse and finally retreating to the lower A.
The progress of the lyrics through its five stanzas places the singer into an incrementally increasing tension with an increasingly ambiguous “sound of silence”. The irony of using the word “sound” to describe silence in the title lyrics suggests a paradoxical symbolism being used by the singer, which the lyrics of the fourth stanza eventually identify as “silence like a cancer grows”.
The “sound of silence” is symbolically taken also to denote the cultural alienation associated with much of the 1960s. In the counterculture movements of the 1960s, the phrase “sound of silence” can be compared to other more commonly used turns of phrase such as “turning a deaf ear” often associated with the detachment experienced with impersonal large governments.
The first stanza presents the singer as taking some relative solace in the peacefulness he associates with “darkness” which is submerged “within” the ambiguous sound of silence. The second stanza has the effect of breaking into the silence with “the flash of a neon light” which leaves the singer “touched” by the enduring ambiguity of the sound of silence.
In the third stanza, a “naked light” emerges as a vision of 10,000 people all caught within their own solitude and alienation without any one of them daring to “disturb” the recurring sound of silence.
In the fourth stanza, the singer proclaims in a declarative voice that “silence like a cancer grows,” though his words “like silent raindrops fell” without ever being heard against the by now cancerous sound of silence.
The fifth stanza appears to culminate with the urgency raised by the declarative voice in the fourth stanza through the apparent triumph of a false “neon god”. The false neon god is only challenged when a “sign flashed out its warning” that only the words of the indigent written on “subway walls and tenement halls” could still “whisper” their truth against the recurring and ambiguous form of “the sound of silence”.
The song has no lyrical bridge or change of key, and was written without any lyrical intro or outro to start or end the song.
“The Sound of Silence” is a song about alienation and it’s hard to believe that it was composed by a 21-year-old. Simon Paul, the singer-songwriter of the folk music duo Simon & Garfunkel, composed the track during his university years.
For songwriter Paul Simon, the song was inspired by his teenage years when he was just happy to be alone with his guitar. Simon tied in that experience with the first lines of “The Sound of Silence”.