The Sound of Silence

Album: Wednesday Morning, 3 AM (1966)
Charted: 1


  • The first recording was an acoustic version on Simon & Garfunkel's first album, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, which was billed as "exciting new sounds in the folk tradition," and sold about 2000 copies. When the album tanked, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel split up. What they 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, and released it as a single. 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. Had Wilson not reworked the song without their knowledge, the duo probably would have gone their separate ways. When the song hit #1 in the States, Simon was in England and Garfunkel was at college.
  • Paul Simon was looking for a publishing deal when he presented this song to Tom Wilson at Columbia Records. Wilson thought it could work for a group called The Pilgrims, but Simon wanted to show him how it could work with two singers, so he and and Art Garfunkel sang it to the guys at Columbia Records, who were impressed with the duo and decided to sign them.
  • Paul Simon took six months to write the lyrics, which are about man's lack of communication with his fellow man.
  • In an interview with Terry Gross of National Public Radio (NPR), Paul Simon explained how he wrote the song while working at his first job in music: "It was just when I was coming out of college. My job was to take the songs that this huge publishing company owned and go around to record companies and see if any of their artists wanted to record the songs. I worked for them for about six months and never got a song placed, but I did give them a couple of my songs because I felt so guilty about taking their money. Then I got into an argument with them and said, 'Look, I quit, and I'm not giving you my new song.' And the song that I had just written was 'The Sound of Silence.' I thought, 'I'll just publish it myself,' and from that point on I owned my own songs, so that was a lucky argument.

    I think about songs that it's not just what the words say but what the melody says and what the sound says. My thinking is that if you don't have the right melody, it really doesn't matter what you have to say, people don't hear it. They only are available to hear when the sound entrances and makes people open to the thought. Really the key to 'The Sound of Silence' is the simplicity of the melody and the words, which are youthful alienation. It's a young lyric, but not bad for a 21-year-old. It's not a sophisticated thought, but a thought that I gathered from some college reading material or something. It wasn't something that I was experiencing at some deep, profound level - nobody's listening to me, nobody's listening to anyone - it was a post-adolescent angst, but it had some level of truth to it and it resonated with millions of people. Largely because it had a simple and singable melody."
  • This was one of the songs Simon & Garfunkel performed in 1964 when they were starting out and playing the folk clubs in Greenwich Village. It was their first hit.
  • Paul Simon was often compared to Bob Dylan, who was also signed to Columbia Records, and while Simon has acknowledged Dylan's influence on "The Sound Of Silence," he was never trying to measure up to Dylan. Simon told Mojo in 2000: "I tried very hard not to be influenced by him, and that was hard. 'The Sound Of Silence', which I wrote when I was 21, I never would have wrote it were it not for Bob Dylan. Never, he was the first guy to come along in a serious way that wasn't a teen language song. I saw him as a major guy whose work I didn't want to imitate in the least."

    There is a Dylan connection on this song: The electric version was produced by Tom Wilson and finished by Bob Johnston, and both men had worked with Dylan. Wilson was Dylan's producer for about two years starting in 1963, and helped Dylan make the transition from acoustic folk to electric rock. Wilson went on to work with The Velvet Underground and later became a record company executive. Johnston was Dylan's producer until 1970.
  • This was used in the movie The Graduate. The film's director, Mike Nichols, put it 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 honesty. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Stefan - Winona, MS
  • 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.
  • In the US, this hit #1 on New Year's Day, 1966.
  • The opening line, "Hello darkness, my old friend," came from Simon's time as a boy when he would sing in the bathroom with the lights out, enjoying the acoustics from the tiles that provided a doo-wop reverb sound.
  • On February 23, 2003, Simon and Garfunkel reunited for the first time in 10 years to accept a lifetime achievement award and perform this at the opening of The Grammys. At the time, the US was preparing to invade Iraq, and while this could be heard as a political statement, Simon said it wasn't. He explained that they wanted to play this because it was their first hit.
  • At the Grammy Awards in 1967, Simon & Garfunkel were introduced by Dustin Hoffman, who made a name for himself when he starred in The Graduate. There was no host at The Grammys that year, so Hoffman was the first person seen when the show opened.
  • Despite its great popularity, Blender magazine voted this the 42nd worst song ever, remarking sardonically that "If Frasier Crane were a song, he would sound like this." The magazine's editor, Craig Marks, defended Blender's decision to include this much-loved song on their list, stating: "It's the freshman-poetry meaningfulness that got our goat, with self-important lyrics like 'hear my words that I might teach you', it's almost a parody of pretentious '60s folk-rock." The brief article on the song corresponding with this called the "hear my words" line "the most self-important... in rock history," and elaborated on Mark's remarks with: "Simon and Garfunkel thunder away in voices that suggest they're scowling and wagging their fingers as they sing. The overall experience is like being lectured on the meaning of life by a jumped-up freshman."
  • The band Gregorian covered this on their album Masters of Chant - as Gregorian chant. Nevermore also covered it on the album Dead Heart In A Dead World, and the German band Atrocity covered it on their 2000 album Gemini. As for their version's quality: Many people feel the band name was appropriate. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brett - Edmonton, Canada, for above 2
  • This was used in the movie Old School in a scene where Will Ferrell falls into a pool. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Joel Riley - Berkley, MI
  • The Bachelors, a three-piece vocal group from Ireland, recorded this in 1966 and hit #3 in the UK with their version. Simon & Garfunkel's version was not released as a single in England. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Phil - Bolton, England
  • This song was parodied on The Simpsons in the fifth season episode "Lady Bouvier's Lover." The whole episode is very similar to The Graduate, and The Simpsons version plays over the end credits, after Grandpa and Mrs. Bouvier have left the church much as Benjamin and Elaine do in the movie. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Judah - San Francisco, CA
  • Paul Simon didn't always enjoy performing his older songs, as he had a hard time making connections to songs he had written decades earlier. This was a source of contention for the duo, since Art Garfunkel felt that many of their popular songs were still relevant, and their audience wanted to hear them. Garfunkel explained in a 1993 interview with Paul Zollo: "I want 'The Sound Of Silence' to get angry at the end as if it's timeless. The impoverished are screaming, 'F--k this unfair system,' just like they've always screamed it. It's a timeless thing. It lives, if you can make it live, onstage tonight like it did when it was written in '64."
  • There has been only one cover version of this song to make the US Hot 100: a 1971 release by Peaches & Herb that made #100. Some other notable covers are an extended Metal version by Nevermore on their 2000 album Dead Heart in a Dead World, and a 1996 rendition by the Icelandic singer Emiliana Torrini.
  • Simon & Garfunkel performed this at Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit in 1993 with Eddie Van Halen backing them on guitar.
  • The heavy metal band Disturbed surprised their fans by covering this for their 2015 Immortalized album. Guitarist Dan Donegan said they didn't want to cover up singer David Draiman's vocal with "loud, aggressive, and distorted guitars" on their version. He added: "We wanted to showcase his vulnerability and take a leftfield approach. The strings and violins really deepen it. It's something that might shock people because we went down a new path altogether. We did what felt right and saw the vision through."
  • Released as a single, Disturbed's cover became their highest-charting song on the Hot 100, peaking at #42. Draiman told The Wall Street Journal that he "couldn't be more flabbergasted" by the success of their cover. He added: "[It's a song] that my parents can play for their friends with pride without having to warn them not to be frightened ahead of time. I have fans saying, 'Finally, me and my mom can actually agree on music for once!'"
  • Paul Simon endorsed Disturbed's version after the band delivered a performance of his tune during their March 28, 2016 appearance on Conan. Simon sent David Draiman an email shortly after, saying, "Really powerful performance on Conan the other day. First time I'd seen you do it live. Nice. Thanks."
  • This appears as a running joke throughout the TV series Arrested Development to reflect the inner turmoil of Gob Bluth (Will Arnett).
  • In April 2016, this peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart and #2 on the Rock Streaming Songs chart largely thanks to the popular "Sad Affleck" meme. A few weeks earlier, Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill were interviewed about their film Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and were asked about its mediocre reviews. Affleck's solemn silence inspired a YouTuber to edit the video with "The Sound of Silence" soundtracking his reaction.

Comments: 105

  • Neal Umphred from Washington"The Sound of Silence" / "We've Got a Groovey Thing Goin'" was issued in the UK in 1965 as CBS 201977. In the UK, the A-side was singular ("Sound") whereas in the US it was plural ("Sounds"). For some inexplicable reason, it failed to make any of the major charts there.
  • Fred from OrlandoDoes anyone know the public message made maybe in the 70s using the Sound of Silence in the background? Thanks
  • Gsf from CanadaThis song reminds me of the story of Elijah hearing the voice of God in a thin silence or Kol Dmamah Daka. 1 Kings 19
  • Boris D from CanadaA revolt song against establishment, injustice, and passiveness of people.
    It is a warning and a call for change, a call for revolt.
    Here is a breakdown of the song the way I see it:

    “Hello darkness, my old friend
    I've come to talk with you again”

    Depression. He feels alone with nobody to communicate his thoughts. Nobody who sees what he sees.

    “Because a vision softly creeping
    Left its seeds while I was sleeping”

    Not clear what kind of a vision is he talking about, but from the rest of the song we can conclude it is about oppression, injustice, manipulation, and brainwashing.
    Seeing different types of oppression, and injustice over the time, while not understanding or not even trying to understand what is behind (while I was sleeping), he does nothing about it. Slowly, from all those disconnected pixels of a world around him, he starts forming a bigger picture, a vision, when connected altogether.

    “And the vision that was planted in my brain
    Still remains
    Within the sound of silence”

    Yet, although, he finally starts seeing the problem, and the cause, he still is not doing anything.

    “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”

    The metaphor use in this part is very heavy, so I will try first to explain some of it.
    Narrow - restricted
    Cobblestone - paving stone tightly put together, and firmly depressed into ground - oppressed people with restricted rights.
    Halo - a ring of light around or above the head of a holy person - god, power, police, establishment.
    He feels like if he is the only one who sees that mass of oppressed people, and injustice toward them created by the system, yet he still ignores it (I turned my collar to the cold and damp). [Think of homeless people you pass by. How many times do we turn our head the other way? How many times we ask ourselves why? If we know why, what did we do to change it?]

    “When my eyes were stabbed by
    The flash of a neon light
    That split the night
    And touched the sound of silence”

    The moment he completes the picture, the parts are connected and he has a clear vision, the blinds on his eyes are finally off(“When my eyes were stabbed by The flash of a neon light That split the night). He would like to scream and do something (And touched the sound of silence), but still not there yet.

    “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”

    He realizes, he is not alone who sees all that injustice, many more (Ten thousand people, maybe more) sees that, yet they never mention, or understand that, nor they act upon that. Although, they think about the problems, oppression, and injustice around them (People writing songs that voices never share) they are not ready to stand up and change the situation.
    At the other hand, mainstream media and politicians are pushing narrative that is basically meant to passivize people, and distract, push their anger towards invented enemy, minority groups, and religions. (People talking without speaking People hearing without listening).
    They have no courage to revolt against the system (And no one dared Disturb the sound of silence).
    Even though not completely content with the system, and their lives, they would rather comply, and let other people rule them, than to try to change the system afraid to lose what they have.

    “"Fools", said I, "You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows"

    He warns people about passiveness ("Fools", said I, "You do not know Silence like a cancer grows). If nothing gets changed, and people keep complying, slowly they will get attuned to that and it will become even worse.

    "Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you"

    He is calling people to revolt.

    "But my words, like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence”

    But nobody answers the call.

    "And the people bowed and prayed
    To the neon god they made"

    People still blinded with false idols, money, and false promises, and empty dreams served by the mass media controlled by establishment and used to brainwash and control people.

    "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.""

    At the time the song was written, besides the mass media (TV, radio, and newspapers), the only way people could express their through was through graffiti ("The words of the prophets are Written on the subway walls And tenement halls), but they do not have impact on larger mass of people (And whispered in the sound of silence.")

    Please, check The Sound of Silence video at:

    I heard S&G version so many times, but did not listen...

    The song was written 1962 and released 1964.
    Paul Simon wrote a song when he was 21 and took him over 10 months to finish it. According to Paul, parts of the lyrics came from literature he read at college at that time and incorporated into song. At that time Paul was frequently passing through the poor parts of the city on the way to college.

  • Kawa from Tokyo, JapanHi Music lovers,

    I think Paul wrote this song because he had been trying to write a song like Bob dylan's 'Blowin' In The Wind' since Paul knew the song early 60s. Because 'Blowin' in the Wind' was very groundbreaking song in the history and he got into Bob's style. Also Paul was as same age as Bob. This got him more motivated and tried to write a song as a same level. So he kept looking for an idea since then. One day Dec. 1963, something terrible had happened. The US President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. I think this gave Paul some basic idea of writing a song 'Sound Of Silence' about the tragedy . The title of the song was very impressive, that means a lot of people over the country seemed to sad and sorrow and Without saying anything ! Anything ! This leads to the title of the song 'Sound Of Silence', doesn't it. I think maybe this title 'Sound Of Silence' came from somewhere else, Not from Paul ! It probably came from the press over the country, and must had covered the news. Also I think that 'Time' magazine and 'Life' did ,too. Let me put it this way, what if the press or magazines covered a lot of articles about people over the country lining up the funeral sorrowing and praying without saying any words and the press or magazines put this title on the front pages as expressing 'Sound Of Silence' ? AND the songwriter happened to see it ! It was possible ! It was ! And the rest is history
  • Kawa from Tokyo, JapanHi music fans.

    First of all, Paul Simon was as same old as Bob Dylan. That means Paul must had been aware of Bob. Because Bob was very famous when Simon & Garfunkel's first album came out in 1964. Bob's first famous song was 'Blowin' In The Wind' at that time. This song was very popular over the country and it got into a new category. Paul must have wanted to write a song like this. So something happened in the US. It was assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. I think this tragedy gave Paul a hint of writing a song like 'Blowin' in The Wind'. Because both structure of the two songs were alike.

    To be continued,

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyBob Johnston passed away in Nashville at the age of 83 on August 14th, 2015. May he R.I.P.
  • Ron from KsThe song concerns a deeply depressed individual who is contemplating suicide (darkness; my old friend) once more (I've come to speak with you again) because no one is listening to the nightmares he suffers.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn November 22nd 1957, Tom and Jerry performed "Hey, Little Schoolgirl" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    Sixteen days later on December 8th, 1957 the record entered Billboard's Top 100 chart at position #79; it stayed on the chart for 9 weeks, peaking at #49...
    The duo, using their birth names of Simon & Garfunkel, would next enter the Top 100 just under eight years later on November 14th, 1965 when "The Sound of Silence" entered the chart at position #80; and then went on to become the first of their three #1 records.
  • Rod from Boise, IdEnjoyed your comments on the song, Gary. Well thought out.
  • Mike from Franklin, OhHi Kimberly from New Jersey. Wonderful to hear from you. Mike.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyNow let's see if I can get this straight; on December 26th 1965, "The Sounds of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel peaked at #1.
    After one week at #1 it was replaced by "We Can Work It Out" by the Beatles for two weeks...
    Then S&G regained the top spot for another week, and I guess the Fab Four didn't care for that, so they took back the #1 position for one more week and knocked S&G right out of the Top 10, all the way down to #12...
    R.I.P. John and George.
  • Kimberly from Landing, NjNot in Harms way but truly. . . a Sign Of Times. A reason to understand.
  • Kimberly from Landing, NjWords of the profits are shown on the subway walls. Near and far, never ending. time and time again. People Please, Be Aware .. Life Repeats itself. PEACE.
  • Margret Hamilton from St. Paul, MnAll these comments I am surprised no one mentioned the two titles Sound of Silence and Sounds of Silence. Very subtle, but I always preferred Sounds of Silence over "Sound" because it suggested multiple ideas. It appears as "Sounds of Silence" on the LP with the same name and on some 45s. It's a beautiful, haunting melody with great harmonies. So regardless how some get bent out of shape on the suggested lyrical meanings, all I have to hear is "Hello darkness my old friend" and I am already captivated and can easily apply that line to my life.
  • Kimberly from Landing, Nj10,000. is the vision of our future. sad to say but seems to be true. GOD BLESS AMERICA. PRAY..... The best possible solution of our times. Thank You, Kimberly
  • Kimberly from Landing, Njsilence is a sound of millions, sad to say but true, history repeats. God Bless Us All.
  • Thyrocyte from Bangkok, Thailand"People talking without speaking" has a beautiful meaning and this is pertinent to the present ongoing in this world. People now can make a gesture or manner to let others know what he or she is thinking without speaking out a single word. Even on a stage where a famous singer performs his or her show, he or she need not to speak a word but can call a great scream from an audience just making some body gestures eg. nodding, smiling or making some weird movings etc. In this real world, we are now communicating to each other through "talking without speaking". Because the world is now so hustle that we have no time to speak but we have to talk by other means.
  • Miles from Washington Dc, United StatesPaul Simon performed this song solo at the NYC Memorial Ceremonies for the 9/11 victims on 9/11/2011.
  • Bev from Tampa, FlPaul Simon sang this on 9/11/11 at Ground Zero in New York, it seemed most fitting to me...the lyrics apply in so many ways!
  • Billy from Foley, AlWhy can't people just accept the writers reason for this song? As the late great John Lennon said when he thought he might be summons to trstify the meaning of Helter skelter during the Manson trail. " Not all of my songs have meaning or purpose to them, it's just how I may feel on a certain day or a melody that's in head."
  • Darlene from Duluth, MnIts too bad Blender chose the negative interpretation of 'hear my words that I might teach you', as being self important...i think the song speaks to us as a group who do not speak up against the mainstream, who hear but don't listen to each other....i interpret it as hear our words (speak up) so that we might teach each other....feel our arms so that we may reach each other...
  • Gary from Leeds, United KingdomAs someone said earlier Simon got some inspiration from reading material at college. So as i give my interpretation of the lyrics i dont know whether Simon was'consciously aware' at the age of 21 but not many at that age are. And as well as the reading material that influenced him there was the teenage angst. Well teenagers who feel like that in my opinion know there is something wrong inside of them and some of the anger comes from not knowing why they feel that way. However they are young enough not to have been subjected to decades of brainwashing, mind control, falsehoods or any of the other negative stuff one cares to mention to the point where they dont yet accept everything they are being told, hence the angst. In other words they are somewhat spiritually alive without quite realising it. So thats my explanation as to the depth of the lyrics from someone so young. In 1964 the world wasn't as full with technology as it is now so any interpretations along those lines i think are more visionary, perhaps from reading, if there is any truth in that.

    Sorry i dont want to go into every significant line or i will be here for ages but 'stabbed by a flash of neon light' (which touched the (his) sound of silence) to me means something along the lines of 'waking up to the truth' , some kind of spiritual awakening or realisation. I believe this to be the case because i have had the same kind of experience and later in the song it does say where some of the real truth can be found, i.e. on the subways in the words of prophets (today could say You Tube or anywhere else where truth or prophecies can be found.) Certainly newspapers for example dont see it as there role to make us spiritually aware. As someone said earlier, politicians and media etc dont always deal with the truth. And by the way, sorry to preach but when we listen to the news for example the only thing we know is what we are being told, doesnt make it true. And essentially i see this song generally conveying a message truth.

    In 1964, there wasnt mobile texting and net chatting going on so i doubt that 'talking without speaking' refers to this. Could be various meanings but i would go with something along the lines of people talking but not speaking up about what matters but preferring to remain silent. Martin Luther King said we will not remember the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.

    So for me this song is about someone who has found truth, come to some kind of self awareness, truer perception of reality or something like that but at the same time he sees that most people are not singing from that hymnsheet. I am not saying that all this comes from Simon himself, just that there is some influence there and certainly a truer perception of reality than what he sees around him. A further message in the song could be, 'wake up people' in the ten thousand people verse. he hears songs with great truth in them but he doesnt see these words being shared by the people with a voice. If this idea came from Simon at 21 good on him, and i would say that young people do find resonance in the words of their favourite songs rather than their leaders.

    By the way, I am a prophet.
  • Peter Belfon from St. George, GrenadaThis song is one of my all time greats! I love it is an all time classic and regardless of what critics may say or believe the song is already written and sung. The melody demands listening, the lyrics: vocally strong.
    I being a poet in my own rights I could see the pensiveness of the writer's thoughts. He uses strong sentences to capture our attention and imagination which to me is like an unfolding parable and considering certain words and phrases used in the song it bears down heavily on our social decay as witnessed in every nation across the world.

    Whenever I hear this song I get good reminders of the the way we live and carry out our daily lives. Just as one would get a panoramic view from a mountain top, this song: The Sound Of Silence in a pensive manner opens up and penetrates the hearts and minds of listeners thereby giving us a broader scope things that happens around us.
    Failure to communicate with each other is the shaping of a destructive end and remaining silent on burning and troubling issues is equally destructive, dangerous and weighty as the title of the song itself: "THE SOUND OF SILENCE" This is my honest comment on this song.

    Thank you! Peter Belfon from the Tri-Island State of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique in the West Indies.
  • The Voice from Phila, PaProphetic vision of the coming Messiah. notice words , seeds, planting, halo,prophets, darkness( evil) the silence is mans ignorance to his teaching of mercy and love. God's can only be heard in the sound of silence but people do not want to hear. People talking without speaking (speaking words that are meaningless. S&G were only the messengers.
  • Jampoon from Bangkok, ThailandEverybody has freedom to interprete this song freely according to background and belief.There is no obligation that the audience must follows only Garfunkel's idea or the composer's opinion.The opinion of Garfunkel is just from his point of view and has no authorization to force others to think in his way.

    By the way, I have put another version of my comment in Thai RJD room on topic P10140536. If any of you are interested in seeing this, please check it out there.
  • Dan from Telzstone, IsraelIn the intro, Art Garfunkel tells us that this song is about people's inability to communicate with one another. But another subtext is that modern society, "And the Neon gods they made", promotes a kind of mass alienation both from society "and thie sign flashed out its warning" and from each each other "people talking without speaking...". So amidst the noise of bustle of modern society, the author seeks the clarity (sound) of contemplation (silence).
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyIn 1971 Peaches and Herb covered this song; their version peaked at No. 100 and stayed in the Top 100 for two weeks!!!
  • Breanna from Henderson, NvAn awesome song. This is my second favorite song by them only second to I Am a Rock. I agree with Victor, Vienna, VA it is one of the top 10 best songs ever, it speaks to you.
  • Synchronic from Topeka, KsArtists, authors, and poets are creators and often speak with the voice of God. Just because the author is unaware of a meaning in his work does not mean that the work is meaningless.
  • Duff from Calgary, AbWas just re-reading HESSE's Steppenwolf novel after 15 years. And strangely found myself thinking as I was reading, "this is the setting of the song THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE". Then I googled this site. Wierd.

    Example #1 on Page 29 (of OWL's 1990 Steppenwolf reprint): Hesse's main character (Harry Haller) is walking alone at night in the rain. He writes:

    "I trod the moist pavements of the narrow streets. As though in tears and veiled, the lamps glimmered through the chill gloom and sucked their reflections slowly from the wet ground."

    Simon: "On restless streets I walked alone, Narrow streets of cobbled-stone; 'Neath the halo of an old street lamp."

    Example #2 (on Page 37):
    "I loitered as I wended my way homeward; turned up my collar and struck my stick on the wet pavement".

    Simon: "I turned my collar to the cold and damp"

    There's more too. During this night time walk, Hesse's character discovers a strange sign in the darkest of alleyways - a decidedly ELECTRIC SIGN... The NEON LIGHT in Simon's song - Only in the novel Hesse's sign says: "MAGIC THEATRE; ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY; FOR MADMEN ONLY!"

    Love the song. And rewarding to find the parallel in literature-- and probably just one of several books Simon's refers to in his NPR interview about this song.
  • Tom from Boston, MaIn an interview about his early years, Paul said that he used to sit in an empty closet with his guitar, totally dark, to try and create his best work. He never directly stated it, but the opening lines "Hello, darkness my old friend, I've come to talk with you again..." sound like the sort of thing one would come up with casually. And from there, perhaps he built the rest. not to belittle any of this great song, just a thought.
  • Thom from New Orleans, Lathe classic recording of this song is magical
  • John from Here Nor There, KyI would like to say to the craker head who posted the comment(I don't know where some of you got your "theories" from but if you said anything other than it's about teenage angst or frustration you're wrong wrong wrong!) that he/she who ever they are needs to relocate the boot from their mouth and think for a second before (s)he begins to speak. First off, how hypocritical of you to first say that everyone and their brother is "wrong wrong wrong!" about what they think the song means and tell them to put "this is what meaning i got from it", but not anywhere state that this is your own opinion but fact. Considering that your so called "fact" that it couldn't possibly be about the Kennedy assassination (which you spelled wrong by the way) because Simon wrote the song in 1963 and didnt publish it until 1964. Now PLEASE tell me how in the world did you come up with that? Kennedy died on November 22, 1963... Whats that?! 1963?! The same year that Simon started writing the song?! What a concept! And where did Bipolar come from! YOU need to do your research. NONE of his biography's say that he had EVER been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. And where do you come from by saying that the person who wrote the comment was?! Do you even know what Bipolar disorder is? DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE YOU TELL OTHERS TO DO THEIRS!!!! For pity sake.
  • Pippin from Elk Grove, CaI don't know where some of you got your "theories" from but if you said anything other than it's about teenage angst or frustration you're wrong wrong wrong! Sorry, but you are. It's VERY EASY to look up the meaning by the songwriter Paul Simon. Just GOOGLE it if you have to but Please get you're facts straight before you stick your foot it in. What you should've said was "this is what meaning I got from it" instead of claiming your belief as fact. You make yourself appear lazy & ignorant. when I first heard this song I drew all kinds of deep meaning, emotions & symbolism from it's words. But that doesn't mean it's what the author intended. So get off your high horses and stop giving out bad info. Incidently, Simon wrote this song in 1963 it didn't get published until 1964 so it couldn't possibly be about KENNEDY'S ASSASINATION, another said it was about his struggle with Bi-polar! Seriously? are you BiPolar? Because the word Bipolar wasn't around when Simon was 21 & he wasn't diagnosed with it until his 40's - again check the facts. And the Heroin one is the funniest. He probably thought that because HE was on heroin when he first heard the song. That one is just silly and I'd sooner believe the Kennedy assasination theory!!!
  • Aditi from Mumbai, IndiaThis song also features in the movie watchmen (a movie based on the graphic novel watchmen by alan moore). love the song!
  • Rich from Bellevue, WaThe emperor is naked. This song doesn't mean squat. The very fact that nobody can agree on what it means proves it. You can come up with what some of the lines or phrases mean, but nobody has yet come up with a consistent, meaningful interpretation that takes into account all the lines. I agree with Simon's on self-appraisal: it's just teenage angst. Big deal.

    The music is pretty, though.
  • Charles from Boyne City, MiThe song also plays in Bobby, the movie about the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. It's the only sound over the video of everybody rushing around after Bobby is shot. Great film, and a great spot for the song.
  • Guy from Woodinville, Wagary w. jansen, new canaan, it was "Silent Night" that S&G recorded over the evening news. Easy to see why you got them mixed up.
  • Marian from Shanghai, ChinaThe meaning of "people talking without speaking, people hearing without listening", I think, is that they communicate with each other through their hearts.
  • Gary W. Jansen from New Canaan,Does anyone remember when the evening news was recorded over the Sound of Silence? How can I get hold of that recording...very moving. Gary, New Canaan, Ct.
  • Cyberpope from Richmond, CanadaThe sound of silence is the contented quiet of the devil, upon recept of all his souls. . .

    The first line is actually:

    "Hell! (Oh, Darkness!) My old friend!
  • Thomas from Perth, AustraliaThe lyrics ask the Zen question - What is the sound of silence?
  • Dick from Chicago, IlPeople! You have completely missed the meaning of the song!! "Hello darkness my old friend" refers to his plight with bipolar and he has stated this on numerous occassions. It has NOTHING to do with Hesse, or the Kennedy assination,or social injustice,or drugs, etc. Read any biography on him and you will know this!!
  • Jon from Cambridge, United KingdomRegarding the line "Neon Gods". In the Book of Daniel (5:1-30) King Belshazzar and his entourage worship idols and a hand wrote a message on the wall telling the king of his fate.
  • Alessandro from Besnate, Italyto a lot of people who posted here (and to Blender too.. -_-): the line "Hear my words that I might teach you" IS NOT Simon itself speaking.. How could you just come to think such a nonsense..? Didn't you notice that it's a DIRECT SPEECH done by the "narrator" (who is not necessarily Simon.. usually is undefined..) IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DREAM TOLD BY THE SONG?? So, it IS NOT Simon saying to "all the world" or to the listeners that "they should hear his words because he can teach them something", BUT is the narrator who, in his vision/dream, is dreaming to see those "ten thousand people" and to try to tell (yell at) those people (who don't talk, but are affected by the "silence") that silence is a nefarious thing, that they should talk each other (because the narrator himself want to talk with them) and that IF THEY WANT, he MIGHT (that to me is a clear signal of humility) teach them how to talk each other.
  • Susan from Westchestertonfieldville, Va"To me, Paul Simon is the most pompous and self-important songwriter of all. - MusicMama, New York, NY"

    people are entitled to their opinions, MusicMama but not every INSPIRATIONAL SONGWRITING GENIOUS is going to be nice and humble, Paul Simon can be arrogant until pigs fly for all I care, There is nothing more refreshing than his use of words and phrases and melody that IMO have never been matched to this day. He fascinates me!
  • Susan from Westchestertonfieldville, VaJeff from Windsor, just stuck your foot in your mouth and sounded like a moron! Check your facts before you speak or shall i say type! doofus!
  • Jason from Dublin, Irelandi love the interpretation which says this song is about mans inability to relate to his fellow man
  • Farrah from Elon, NcFabulous song!!! It's one of Simon And Garfunkel's best!!!
  • Conrad from Alexandria, VaThere is a lot of attention paid to the significance of the "neon God they'd made" - mostly within the confines of technology - did we get it right? - of course, that was a "gimme" but the significance of it is also in part a reference to the golden calf - to idoltry. I am not religious in the least respect, but I feel you only get half the message by focusing solely on the technological aspect.

    The portion I am more interested in is
    "the writing of the prophets is written on the subway walls and tenement halls"
    which seems to be a statement that decency and honesty is rarely if ever presented through our PR and Politically Correct obsessive media - lying politicians, advertisements, slanted journalism, etc. The sentiments of the "everyman" to or perhaps the proletariat are of greater value because they lack the ulterior motive of t.v. anchormans and such - further, they are not as removed. prophets have almost as a tradition not sat in the seats of statesmen. the words are ignored, however well written insightful or prophetic, by your average passerby. that the song is in part about the difficulty of communication or at least meaningful communication among mankind is no surprise to me (though I believe there may be more to it).

    I also feel that as there is a great deal of biblical symbolism that their supposed feux pas of saying "hear my words that I might teach you" was in part an allusion to prophetic teachings - presumptuous or not it is hard to say, though i would not fault them for that any more than i would fault nietzche for writing thus spake zarathustra in imitation of the biblical style - - - IT WAS FOR ARTISTIC AFFECT!!! (further it is such a minute detail in such a beautiful song, perhaps written only for the sake of preserving the meter and rhyme - which are terrible constraints on poets who prefer these more traditional forms - that i do not mind over looking their presumptuousness) f**** blender

    i really do have to look into the hesse connection; i haven't read his works though i've meant to for some time.
  • Sally from South Orange, NjI HATE Blender magazine. They always put great artists and songs on their "worst" lists when they named that mentally challenged frog Eminem as one of the most innovative artists of our time. Blender SUCKS.
  • Elizabeth from Roanoke, VaI agree, probably one of the top ten best songs ever. Who would ever rate it one of the worst? The lyrics alone pull you into the song which is what any timeless song should do. And the song fit perfectly for The Graduate.
  • Musicmama from New York, Ny"Hear my words that I might teach you." Who did these guys think they were? To me, Paul Simon is the most pompous and self-important songwriter of all. He ain't Bob Marley, or for that matter, Bob Dylan. And this song is "Exhibit A."
  • Darren from Warrington, EnglandThe lyrics in this song are really good, can't believe any magazine would dare rate it as their worst song (anyone got a copy of Blender that I can use as toilet paper ;) )

    Listening to this song it makes me think of autism, I'm slightly autistic (Asperger's) and it makes me think of how it is when I'm wandering round in crowds of thousands of people, I went on an international gathering recently of 40,000 people and at night everyone was stood around talking but I couldn't seem to do that as there was too many people, this reminds me of the following lines in the song

    Ten thousand people, maybe more.
    People talking without speaking,
    People hearing without listening,
  • Pierre from Chelsea, Quebec, CanadaOnce yoy her that song, you can't get ri of the tune. It is a masterpiece.
  • Individual from Boston, MaOMG!!! So glad someone else hit on the Hesse connection! I noticed that a few years ago but couldn't find mention of it anywhere online.
  • Daniel from Staten Island, NyOnce again the song facts are wrong. The Sounds of Silence was not their first hit, "Hey School Girl" was their first major hit. But is often forgotten because they went under their stage names of Tom and Jerry.
  • Steve from Saint Joseph, MoThe Sound of Silence has been one of my favorite songs since I was a boy. The tune and words always seemed to touch me deep inside and I felt there was a profound meaning to it that I was unable to grasp.

    I now think that the song may be truly prophetic and may have deeper truth and insight than Paul Simon ever intended.

    The song today makes a lot of sense to me when I see the changes taking place in our world on all levels.

    The interpretation is rather obvious if you think of todays society and look at the symbolic cues in the song. The Neon God for instance seems to me to obviously mean technology. People have come to depend on and worship technology in a sense... placing it as more important that anything else... making it a god.

    People in todays world spend hours text messaging on cell phones or chatting on the Internet.. talking without speaking.. hearing without listening.

    Natural communication within families is at an all time low. Instead of having family time and talking with one another people spend countless hours in unnatural worship of technology instead.

    People blindly believe what they are told without thinking for themselves independently. They watch movies, listen to what is said in the media and are shaped into viewing the world the way the powers behind the media and entertainment industry want them to view it.

    When the sign flashes out its warning in the words that it was forming, I believe this is the warning that even the main stream corporate sponsored media is starting to give about what the ultimate effects of our technology worship is going to be.

    People love the conveniences technology provides but don't want to hear about its consequences. So we can have our dazzling technological gadgets glowing with neon lights (computer monitors, HDTVs, Cellphone displays etc.) the earth is literally being destroyed and is dying.

    The manufacture of printed circuit boards releases millions of tons of poisons, the cars we drive and electricity we use is causing co2 levels to rise at unprecedented rates never before seen. The earths climate is visibly and noticeably changing worsening each year and becoming more inhospitable.

    But .. the people seeing the sign flash out its warning day after day (Daily news broadcasts by mainstream corporate controlled media warning of what is to come) mostly ignore it and go about their daily business concerned only with their next HDTV and gas guzzling SUV. Their response to what they are indirectly doing and are responsible for is silence.

    The sign says the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls .. seems obvious to me now too. When you go to a subway you see among other things a lot of dire warnings by cranks about the world going to end and so forth. Well ... the sign (the media) is beginning to form the words that those cranks were right.. and the world really is ending .. The people who put all those dire warnings on the walls of subways that everyone laughed off were prophets after all.
  • Alyssa from Boynton, FlThis is probably one one the most beautiful songs i have ever heard. I have never understood exactly what it meant but i have made my opinions. something about Simon and Garfunkel intrigues me. For a 16 year old, i think i have a very good perception of music and this song has got to be one of my favorites.
  • Tom from Hershey, PaBlender sucks, pass it on...
  • Tom from Hershey, PaIs Blender still in business?? Does Craig Marks still have a job?? I thought you had to have a good feel for songs to work in the music business. What an unhip moran! There is a reason the song is so popular a-hole. So what if you don't like a few words. Look at the whole song dip stick and get off the acid.
  • Patrick from Portland, OrGiven that Paul Simon wrote "The Sound of Silence" in response to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, as Dustin has pointed out, doesn't it seem likely that the song is in no small part about the failure the truth about what really happened that day? It can certainly be heard as being about the a kind of self-reinforcing, unspoken "conspiracy of silence" in American society at large that is driven by fear of speaking the truth about profoundly unsettling issues and questions, questions that go to directly to what kind of society we now live in and where power resides. Most of us who see it are afraid to talk about it, particularly in academic and professional settings where our careers may suffer damage from our talking about such things too much. It's about some very big elephants in our collective American living room that we can't bring ourselves face up to as a nation. It is easier for many of us to believe that there has to be a good reason for this silence. Otherwise, we have to look at some very uncomfortable realities and possibilities. To recognize this is almost inevitably to experience intense alienation. Within that alienation, it becomes possible to see clearly a general pattern of silence and fear to communicate with each other, directly and in the public sphere, about uncomfortable truths of great moment. That's how I hear it, anyway.
  • Brendan from Singapore, SingaporeTo Max from Perth:

    My pereception of " My eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light" is the incoming of technology, namely televeision.

    "And the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they made" simply describes the people's reaction to television: obssession. Everyone was so obssessed with technology that they were all buried inside their own worlds, and they did not bother to communicate with others, hence "buried in the wells of silence".

    Overall, this song is warning us about the dangers of non-communicating, and the danger of being sucked into the technological world
  • Bob from Zhuhai, Chinait hurts, i mean while listen to the song. the sound of silence is very deep. perhaps no one can understand all the meanings in it, maybe including Paul Simon himself...
  • Elie from The U.k, Englandstupid blender magazine makes a mistake and now shall pay all the rok fans unite and distroy
    yea whatever great song a classic
  • Nathan from Defiance, OhI meant to say they "know" nothing about music.
  • Nathan from Defiance, OhThe fact Blender Magazine named this one of the worst songs ever shows they nothing about music.
  • Sam from Beirut, Otheri would defenitely say that this is one of the classics in world music, a pretty neat piece of song!
  • Joe Public from Anytown, AlThe Reverse Engineers did an interesting alternative-rock cover of this in 2004. This song has a lot of meaning, though. One thing that's interesting about it is that Rush's "The Spirit of Radio" has the lyrics, "For the words of the profits were written on the studio wall." This song's lyrics? "And the sign said, The words of the prophets / Are written on the subway walls..."
  • Dustin from Overland Park, KsThis sound was originally written in response the the assassination of John F. Kennedy. "When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light, that split the night, and split the sound of silence" refers to the gunshot that "split the sound of silence" and struck Kennedy. "And in the naked light I saw, 10,000 people maybe more" is a reference to his funeral. Going through the rest of the song you can see all the different references to the Kennedy assassination, and the sorrow everyone shared as they all mourned in silence.
  • Maciek from Warsaw, PolandThis is one of my favorite songs, but I can't find any information about the guitarist who played electric guitar parts which were added by Producer Bob Johnson in 1966. Can someone please help me out? Thanks.
  • Mitty from Tucson, AzSeems to be a lot of discussion about the origin of the lyrics to this song. Check out Herman Hesse's "Steppenwolf". Early in the novel is a description of the streets of Munich (I think) as seen through the eyes of the main character. The lyrics are copped from this, at times almost verbatim.
  • Riley from Naval Reserve, ScOh this is NOT a song about heroin! Where did you come up with that? Lovely song by the way.
  • Joe from Charlotte, NcThe "Darkness" is referred to in thousands of rock songs. It has nothing to do with a bathroom (unless he shot up in the bathroom too) This song is about heroin. It's his old friend and he's come to talk to him again. The streets of Cobblestone is in reference to the same stone that Bob Dylan, Guns n Roses, and even Dave Matthews refer to. The Light that they bow to is the same light that the Eagles, Eric Clapton and even Collective Soul refer to. This is Rock and Roll 101.

    Paul Simon loves drug metaphors. "As if anyone knows what I'm talking about"
  • Fevrier from Comox/courtneay, CanadaWhen he's on the street, he turns and a Neon sign blinds his vision in which he goes into a dream world, on a literal sense. The Neon light represents society and technology today, and that should be taken into definate consideration. The people bowing and praying to this neon light is a simple reference to conformity: people following society.
  • Max from Perth, Australiawhat does it mean in the song where he talking about "When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of
    A neon light" and also "In the wells of silence
    And the people bowed and prayed
    To the neon god they made." thx
  • Jordan from Wvis it just me, or does the electric guitar in this song sound out of tune?
  • Katie from Somewhere, NjAccording to my dad, when this song first came out on the radio, the drums were too loud and you couldn't hear the lyrics very well, so they went back and re-recorded it. He says he still remembers it with the drums louder and liked it better that way. After what I've read in various different places, I think he's mistaken, and that he heard the version after the electric instruments were added and then every time after that he just heard the aucostic version. He was talking about this when it was on the radio in the car, and that was when I heard it for the first time. Unfortunately, I can't remember what it sounded like compared to the version with the electric instruments. Anyone know anything to support/deny my dad's idea?
  • Aylin from Montreal, CanadaThis song is a classic. It's amazing. I'm not sure why they had to play it three times in The Graduate, though.
  • Bill from Erie, PaWhat a great song. I've realized it's about lonliness, lack of communication, and social breakdown, all of which have come to be very important in my life today.
  • Eloise from London, EnglandYou are 100% right, Nikki from VA. This song is called The Sound of Silence. I was there in the 60's and I have the original vinyl LP on which it first appeared.
  • Amir from Toronto, Canadawho cares if it was on old school, really great song and great lyrics.
  • Zachariah from Detroit, MiListening to the song after reading T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men" brings a new perspective to the song's meaning. In other words, just as Simon lifted the theme (to the point of near plagiarism) of Edmund Arlington Robinson's "Richard Cory," I wonder if he did not lift the imagery Eliot's "The Hollow Men" in the Sound of Silence."
  • Dave from Eastbourne, EnglandBlender is like a few other music magazines most notably NME (at least in the UK not sure if thier are international versions) they will say things just to be different even if they can only come up with a ridiculous argument
  • Nikki from Remington, VaAccording to my CD, the song is titled 'The Sound of Silence'
  • Ross from Independence, MoThis is #156 on Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
  • Lance from Spring Hill, FlAlso, this song talks about diverse cultures shunning each other away.
  • Lance from Spring Hill, FlThis song actually had an extra, if not totally different verse. I don't know the lyrics, but it was sung by S & G on their Old Friends Tour DVD...
  • John from Levittown, NyRush borrowed some of the lyrics in Spirit of the Radio (words of the prophets are written on the studio walls ,etc.). A great song that perfectly captures desolation.
  • Kieran from D.c., VaI don't understand how this song was ranked one of the worst songs ever written. The lyrics are insightful and the song is intelligent.
  • Clay from Chatsworth, CaThis is one of the most profound and weighty songs to ever hit the airways. Paul Simon had the amazing ability to write music that not only sounded good, but that also had lyrical substance, Sounds of Silence is no exception. The overarking theme of the destruction and hopelessness of materialism and modernism is incredibly true.
  • Lisa from Detroit, Mithe words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, tenement halls refers to grafitti
  • Jake from Toronto, CanadaWhat's the line "And the sign said the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls" a reference to?
  • Nicola from Perth, Australiai love this song... it's got great lyrics
  • Steve from Medford , NjIt was in deed in old school. It's played when Will Ferrel falls into the pool at max's birthday party.
  • Tina from Cardiff, WalesThis song is about lonliness, infact it's a metafor for the writer's condition of lonliness and isolation in a modern city.In the first line there is a welcome to the darkness as it is the only friend in a world of isolated individuals. Too true even today - dear Paul and Simon nothing has changed!
  • John from Stephenville Crossing, CanadaI think this is a very good song. It is a classic.
  • Denise from Santa Clarita, CaThe line "hello darkness my old friend" was written by Paul Simon because he used to go into the bathroom where it was dark to come up with song lyrics.
  • Jen from Boulder, CoEh, the people at Blender are just so stupid sometimes. They just want to make statements half the time.
  • Chad from Orlando, FlYeah, i'ts definitely in Old School, as well as the Woody Harrelson film Kingpin
  • Jeff from Windsor, Canadathis song was not played in that movie "old school", the song was actully "dust in the wind", by Kansas.
  • Victor from Vienna, Vaone of the top ten best songs ever
  • Steven from Independence, KyThis song was also used in the movie "Old School." It plays when Will Ferrell falls into the pool after shooting himself with the tranquilizer gun.
  • Rachel from Upper Darby, Pasounds of silence is one of the greatest songs ever written, and the graduate was a great film. the song is timeless, everyone can understand it.
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