For many people "living in the spiritual world of the '60s," Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were the "voices of a generation." Their "soft ballads and biting protest songs became anthems of the 1960s." Paul Simon recounted, "I wrote 'Sounds of Silence' in 1963. It wasn't recorded until 1964, and it wasn't a hit single until 1965. Who knows that a song you write when you're 20 will still be popular 20 years later (in 1983). A lot of people did good work back then. I'm fortunate mine lasted. No one knew it at the time, whether their songs would last – maybe the Beatles did." 

'Sounds of Silence' talked about "a vision (that) left its seeds while I was sleeping, and planted in my brain". Art Garfunkel told Larry Katz of the 'Los Angeles Times' in 1994, "The original recording had our 2 voices and one guitar. It was on the first Simon and Garfunkel album, 'Wednesday Morning, 3.A.M.' Well, that album didn't sell like the other albums did. It's not nearly as well-known. The famous 'Sounds of Silence' has overdubbed drums, bass and that electric 12-string sound that was typical of folk-rock in the mid-'60s. But clear out the electric sounds and you hear the lyrics. You hear the 2 voices. I wanted to put that forward." 

Paul Simon was traveling in Europe (to France, Spain and England) "earning his meals by singing in the streets and sleeping under the bridges of the Seine, his guitar strapped to his arm" and Art Garfunkel was studying architecture at Columbia University when Tom Wilson of Columbia Records decided to release the overdubbed version of 'Sounds of Silence'. That version of 'Sounds of Silence' became the hottest song on New Year's Day 1966 after 14 weeks on the Billboard chart. It was understood Paul Simon did not want to spend his family's money studying law at Queens College. 

Art continued, "It was just like life. You try to go one way, and then from a completely other direction you get a lucky break. Paul and I probably would have stayed on different tracks. I don't think Paul was about to come back to the (United) States. Accident and circumstances are really what rule lives." Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were friends since 4th grade. "By the time we reached 5th grade we were probably the only 2 males in school who thought of ourselves as singers," Paul Simon recalled.

In 1957, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel performed under the stage names of Tom and Jerry. They were 15 at the time. Paul told Wayne Robins of 'The Bulletin and Newsday' in 1993, "So many people thought we were folk, but we were doo-wop first, then this imitation of the Everly Brothers and then folk. We were 15 years old, we went on 'American Bandstand' and the other act was Jerry Lee Lewis. Can you imagine being 15 years old on a show with Jerry Lee Lewis at the height of his career?" In 1965, the Byrds' version of Bob Dylan's 'Mr. Tambourine Man' put folk-rock on the map and in the charts. After they graduated from Forest Hills High School, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel would not to see one another again until 1962 when "they ran into each other near Artie's house in Queens."

Paul Simon told Terry Gross of National Public Radio (NPR), "

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."

"We'd learned to sing by copying Everly Brothers records," Paul told Lynn Van Matre of 'Chicago Tribune' in 1975. "People talk about the music being better back in the '60s. I'm not so sure it was. It was just that there was more daring then and more innocence. When Artie and I were starting out, music never seemed like the business it is now (in 1975). In the '70s, people are more cynical because of all the hype and the huge concerts. It seems now (in 1975) the emphasis has shifted from music to theatrics. A lot of performers aren't so much singers as actors (such as John Denver)."

On reflection, Paul Simon told Eve Zibart of the 'Washington Post' in 1980, "I think the later songs are vastly superior to the early material. They were big hits, but some of the early stuff, 'Sounds of Silence' … I didn't really know what I was doing. They just came naturally." Mike Nichols liked 'Sound of Silence' so much he used the song in the movie, 'The Graduate' and asked Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel to come up with 2 more scores, 'Hey Mrs Robinson' and 'Scarboro Fair'.

Paul Simon told Paul Cowan of 'The Ledger' in 1976 that when they arrived in Hollywood in 1967, "we felt that we were about to be eliminated from the popular music scene. We didn't think there was any room  for the kind of work we did. Actually, nothing could have been further from the truth. 'The Graduate' was just about to come out and we were about to be more popular than ever."

The 'Washington Post' noted Paul Simon left the Columbia Broadcasting System in 1978 for a reported $10 million to $15 million 3-album deal with Warner Bros. which allowed Paul "virtually complete artistic control , final cut rights and a $6 million to $7 million budget." Paul told Eve Zibart, "There's a word for it. Opsimathy. I looked it up the other day. It means learning late in life."

"To find out that some work you did 10, 15 years ago remains popular through your generation and the generation after that and the generation after that, you have to be fortunate. It's like getting a blessing," Paul Simon told Gary Graff in 1983. Back in 1969, Art Garfunkel told the Associated Press, "Now if someone sent me a script, I'd read it – I wouldn't have done so before. But if I did any more acting, I would have to go into it more deeply and study it. I don't think acting would ever take precedence over music. Music is where I am." 

Blog Archive