Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” was released in 1964 and became a hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song’s lyrics deal with the themes of isolation, loneliness, and the lack of communication in modern society.
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
The song begins with the speaker addressing “darkness,” which is personified as an old friend. The speaker says that they have come to talk with darkness again, possibly suggesting that they have had previous conversations with it. The vision that is mentioned could represent an idea or thought that came to the speaker during a dream.
In restless dreams, I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a streetlamp
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
The second verse describes the speaker’s dreams of walking alone in “narrow streets of cobblestone.” The use of “halo” and “neon light” suggest a contrast between the old and the new, and the speaker’s discomfort with the changes in society. The “sound of silence” is touched by the flash of the neon light, possibly representing the speaker’s realization of the lack of communication and human connection in modern society.
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
The third verse describes the speaker’s observation of a crowd of people who are “talking without speaking” and “hearing without listening.” The line “people writing songs that voices never share” could be interpreted as a critique of the music industry and its focus on commercial success rather than genuine expression. The final line emphasizes the theme of silence and the fear of disrupting it.
“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
In the wells of silence
In the fourth verse, the speaker addresses the crowd as “fools” and warns them about the dangers of silence, which is compared to a cancer. The speaker wants to teach and reach the people, but their words fall like “silent raindrops” and are not heard. The line “echoed in the wells of silence” suggests that the speaker’s message is lost in the vast emptiness of modern society.
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 sounds of silence
The final verse describes the people bowing and praying to the “neon god they made,” which could represent the worship of material possessions and commercialism. The sign’s warning emphasizes the importance of listening to the words of prophets, which are often found in unexpected places such as “subway walls and tenement halls.” The song ends with a whisper in the sounds of silence, suggesting that the message will not be heard.
“Sound of Silence” is a timeless classic that resonates with listeners even today, over 50 years after its release. Its themes of isolation, loneliness, and the lack of communication in modern society are still relevant and continue to inspire new generations of fans. Simon and Garfunkel’s haunting melodies and vivid lyrics make this song a masterpiece of American folk music.