The Sound of Silence

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"The Sound of Silence"
Single by Simon & Garfunkel
from the album Wednesday Morning, 3 AM and Sounds of Silence
B-side "We've Got a Groovy Thing Goin'"
Released Originally: October 1964
Overdubbed version: September 13, 1965
Format 7" single
Recorded March 10, 1964
Columbia Studios
(New York City)
June 15, 1965 (overdub)
Genre Folk rock, soft rock
Length 3:05
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Paul Simon
Producer(s) Tom Wilson
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Simon & Garfunkel singles chronology
"I'm Lonesome" (1963) "The Sound of Silence"
"Homeward Bound"
Sounds of Silence track listing
"The Sound of Silence"
"Leaves That Are Green"
Audio sample
file info · help

"The Sound of Silence" is a song by the American music duo Simon & Garfunkel. The song was written by Paul Simon over the period of several months between 1963–64. A studio audition led to the duo signing a record deal with Columbia Records, and the song was recorded in March 1964 at Columbia Studios in New York City for inclusion on their debut studio album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M..

Released in October 1964, the album was a commercial failure and led to the duo breaking apart, with Paul Simon returning to England and Art Garfunkel to his studies at Columbia University. In spring 1965, the song began to attract airplay at radio stations in Boston, Massachusetts and throughout Florida. The growing airplay led Tom Wilson, the song's producer, to remix the track, overdubbing electric instrumentation with the same musicians who backed Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone". Simon & Garfunkel were not informed of the song's remix until after its release. The single was released in September 1965.

The song 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 song was a top ten hit in multiple countries worldwide, among them Australia, Austria, West Germany, Ireland, 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 2013 along with the rest of the Sounds of Silence album.

Originally titled "The Sounds of Silence" on Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. as well as on the single release and Sounds of Silence album, the song was retitled for later compilations beginning with Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits.[1][2]

"The Sound of Silence"
Song by Paul Simon from the album The Paul Simon Songbook
Released August 1965
Recorded June–July 1965
Length 3:19
Label CBS


Origin and original recording[edit]

Paul Simon, the song's composer, seen here in 1966.

Simon & Garfunkel became interested in folk music and the growing counterculture movement separately in the early 1960s. Having performed together previously under the name Tom and Jerry in the late 1950s, their partnership had since dissolved when they began attending college. In 1963, they regrouped and began performing Simon's original compositions around their hometown of Queens. They billed themselves "Kane & Garr", after old recording pseudonyms, and signed up for Gerde's Folk City, a Greenwich Village club that hosted Monday night performances.[3] In September 1963, the duo performed three new songs, among them "The Sound of Silence", getting the attention of Columbia Records producer Tom Wilson, who worked with Bob Dylan.[3][4] Simon convinced Wilson to let him and his partner have a studio audition, where a performance of "The Sound of Silence" got the duo signed to Columbia.[5]

The song's origin and basis remains unclear, with multiple answers coming forward over the years. Many believe that the song commented on the John F. Kennedy assassination, as the song was released three months after the assassination.[3] Simon stated unambiguously in interviews however, "I wrote The Sound of Silence when I was 21 years old",[6][7] which places the timeframe firmly prior to the JFK tragedy, with Simon also explaining that the song was written in his bathroom, where he turned off the lights to better concentrate.[4] "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'."[8] In a more recent interview, Simon was directly asked, "How is a 21 year old person thinkin' about the words in that song?" His reply was, "I have no idea."[9] According to Simon, Garfunkel originally wrote the lyric as "Aloha darkness, my old friend."[10] Garfunkel once summed up the song's meaning as "the inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly internationally but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other."[4]

To promote the release of their debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., the duo performed again at Folk City, as well as two shows at the Gaslight Café, which went over poorly. Dave Van Ronk, a folk singer, was at the performances, and noted that several in the audience regarded their music as a joke.[11] "'Sounds of Silence' actually became a running joke: for a while there, it was only necessary to start singing 'Hello darkness, my old friend...' and everybody would crack up."[12] Wednesday Morning, 3 AM sold only 3,000 copies upon its October release, and its dismal sales led Simon to move to London, England.[13] While there, he recorded a solo album, The Paul Simon Songbook (1965), which features a rendition of the song, titled "The Sounds of Silence".[14]


The song's heavy airplay in Cocoa Beach, Florida alerted Columbia to release the single.

Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. had been a commercial failure before producer Tom Wilson was alerted that radio stations had begun to play "The Sound of Silence" in spring 1965. A late-night disc jockey at WBZ in Boston began to spin "The Sound of Silence" overnight, where it found a college demographic.[15] Students at Harvard and Tufts University responded well, and the song made its way down the East Coast pretty much "overnight", "all the way to Cocoa Beach, Florida, where it caught the students coming down for spring break."[15] A promotional executive for Columbia went to give away free albums of new artists, and beach-goers only were interested in the artists behind "The Sound of Silence". He phoned the home office in New York, alerting them of its appeal.[16] An alternate version of the story states that Wilson attended Columbia's July 1965 convention in Miami, where the head of the local sales branch raved about the song's airplay.[17]

Folk rock was beginning to make waves on pop radio, with Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" and the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man" (also a Dylan song) charting high.[18] Wilson listened to the song several times, considering it too soft for a wide release.[15] Afterwards, he turned on the Byrds' "Turn! Turn! Turn!", which gave him the idea to remix the song, overdubbing rock instrumentation.[19][dubious ] He employed the same musicians Dylan worked with on "Like a Rolling Stone": Al Gorgoni (and Vinnie Bell) on guitar, Bob Bushnell on bass, and Bobby Gregg on drums (Wilson intentionally left off Simon's friend Al Kooper, who was too closely identified by Dylan's sound).[20] The tempo on the original recording was uneven, making it difficult for the musicians to keep the song in time.[18] Engineer Roy Halee employed a heavy echo to the remix, which was a common trait of the Byrds' hits.[18] The single was first serviced to college FM rock stations, and a commercial single release followed on September 13, 1965.[17] The lack of consultation with Simon and Garfunkel on Wilson's remix was because, although still contracted to Columbia Records at the time, the musical duo at that time was no longer a "working entity".[18][21]

In the fall of 1965, Simon was in Denmark, performing at small clubs, and picked up a copy of Billboard, as he had routinely done for several years.[17] Upon seeing "The Sounds of Silence" in the Billboard Hot 100, he bought a copy of Cashbox and saw the same thing. Several days later, Garfunkel excitedly called Simon to inform him of the single's growing success.[17] A copy of the 7" single arrived in the mail the next day, and according to friend Al Stewart, "[Paul] was horrified when he first heard it [...] [when the] rhythm section slowed down at one point so that Paul and Artie’s voices could catch up."[19] Garfunkel was far less concerned about the remix, feeling conditioned to the process of trying to create a hit single: "It's interesting. I suppose it might do something. It might sell," he told Wilson.[22]

Chart performance[edit]

"The Sound of Silence" first broke in Boston, where it became one of the top-selling singles in early November 1965;[17][23] it spread to Miami and Washington, D.C. two weeks later, reaching number one in Boston and debuting on the Billboard Hot 100.[24]

Throughout the month of January 1966 "The Sound of Silence" had a one-on-one battle with The Beatles' "We Can Work It Out" for the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The former was #1 for the weeks of January 1 and 22 and #2 for the intervening two weeks. The latter held the top spot for the weeks of January 8, 15, and 29, and was #2 for the two weeks that "The Sound of Silence" was #1. Overall, "The Sound of Silence" spent 14 weeks on the Billboard chart.[25]

In the wake of the song's success, Simon promptly returned to the United States to record a new Simon & Garfunkel album at Columbia's request. He later described his experiences learning the song went to No. 1, a story he repeated in numerous interviews:[26]

I had come back to New York, and I was staying in my old room at my parents' house. Artie was living at his parents' house, too. I remember Artie and I were sitting there in my car one night, parked on a street in Queens, and the announcer [on the radio] said, "Number one, Simon & Garfunkel." And Artie said to me, "That Simon & Garfunkel, they must be having a great time." Because there we were on a street corner [in my car in] Queens, smoking a joint. We didn't know what to do with ourselves.[27]

For his part, Garfunkel had a different memory of the song's success:

We were in L.A. Our manager called us at the hotel we were staying at. We were both in the same room. We must have bunked in the same room in those days. I picked up the phone. He said, 'Well, congratulations. Next week you will go from five to one in Billboard.' It was fun. I remember pulling open the curtains and letting the brilliant sun come into this very red room, and then ordering room service. That was good."[26][28]


In 1999, BMI named "The Sound of Silence" as the 18th most-performed song of the 20th century.[29] In 2004, it was ranked No. 156 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, one of the duo's three songs on the list. The song is now considered "the quintessential folk rock release".[30]

On March 21, 2013, the song was added to the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress for long-term preservation along with the rest of the Sounds of Silence album.[31]

In popular culture[edit]

When director Mike Nichols and Sam O'Steen were editing the 1967 film The Graduate, they initially timed some scenes to this song intending to substitute original music for the scenes. However, they eventually concluded that the song could not be adequately substituted and decided to purchase the rights for the song for the soundtrack. This was an unusual decision for the time, as the song had charted over a year earlier and recycling established music for film was not commonly done.[32] With the practice of using well-known songs for films becoming commonplace, "The Sound of Silence" has since been used for other films, such as Kingpin (1996), Old School (2003), Bobby (2006) and Watchmen (2009). In German TV movie "EIN DRILLING KOMMT SELTEN ALLEIN" the song was being sang by grandparents to calm down crying triplet of grandchildren. It appeared on the fourth season of the television series Arrested Development as a running gag of characters' inner reflections in 2013. The song was also used in "Hollyoaks" in 2015 when the character Patrick Blake played it and revealed it was his favourite song. The song was played in "Hollyoaks" again in 2016 to mark Patrick's exit from the show. It was played in the background whilst he was being suffocated to death.

In the Rush song "The Spirit of the Radio", the final lines are a satire in homage to the final lines of "The Sound of Silence": "For the words of the profits were written on the studio wall". In the liner notes, the lyrics spell the word 'profits' and not 'prophets'. (This ironic twist is consistent with the song's theme of criticizing how money had damaged the integrity of the music industry, particularly in radio.)

Chart and certifications[edit]

Preceded by
"C C C" (ja) by The Tigers (ja)
Japanese Oricon Singles Chart number-one single
September 9 – 16, 1968
Succeeded by
"Koi no Kisetsu" (ja) by Pinky & Killers (ja)
Preceded by
"Over and Over" by The Dave Clark Five
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
January 1, 1966
Succeeded by
"We Can Work It Out" by The Beatles
Preceded by
"We Can Work It Out" by The Beatles
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
January 22, 1966
(second run)
Succeeded by
"We Can Work It Out" by The Beatles

Disturbed version[edit]

"The Sound of Silence"
Single by Disturbed
from the album Immortalized
Released December 7, 2015
Format Digital download
Length 4:08
Label Reprise
Writer(s) Paul Simon
Producer(s) Kevin Churko
Disturbed singles chronology
"The Light"
"The Sound of Silence"

A cover version was released by American heavy metal band Disturbed on December 7, 2015.[39] Their cover hit number one on the Billboard Hard Rock Digital Songs for the week of January 2, 2016. A music video was released on December 7, 2015.[40]

Peak chart positions[edit]

Chart (2016) Peak
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[41] 51
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[42] 52
US Hard Rock Digital Songs (Billboard)[43] 1
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[44] 13
US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard)[45] 1
US Hot Rock Songs (Billboard)[47] 9

Other cover versions[edit]

  • Dutch singer Boudewijn de Groot included a Dutch translation of the song ("Het geluid van de stilte") on his self-titled 1965 debut album.[48]
  • In 1966, Spanish rock band Los Mustang recorded a Spanish-language cover of the song, entitled "El Ritmo Del Silencio".[49]
  • Irish duo The Bachelors had a hit in Ireland and the UK with the song in 1966.
  • In 1967, Jamaican reggae bands The Soul Vendors and The Gaylads recorded a cover of the song.[50]
  • Mercy released a version of the song on their 1969 album, Love Can Make You Happy.[51]
  • Swedish singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad recorded a Swedish-language cover of the song, entitled "En ton av tystnad", which was featured on her 1971 debut album, Frida.
  • Serbian and former Yugoslav acoustic music duo Vlada i Bajka recorded a Serbian language version of the song, "Zvuk tišine", released on a single in 1971.[52]
  • Los Angeles punk band The Dickies recorded a cover of the song, released on a single in 1978.[53]
  • Israeli duo The Parvarim recorded a Hebrew-language version on their 1972 LP The Parvarim Sing Simon & Garfunkel. The lyric was translated by Ehud Manor.
  • French singer Gérard Lenorman in his 1981 album D'amour, featured a rewritten lyrics of this song, and he named it "Chanson d'innocence".
  • In 1986, Stanley Jordan recorded an instrumental version on his Standards, Vol. 1 album.
  • In the late 1980s, The Fools often covered "The Sound of Silence" at their live performances. One such performance was released on the band's 1987 live album Wake Up... It's Alive!!!. The album was re-released with more tracks in 1993 as Wake Up... It's Alive!!! (Again).
  • American heavy/power metal band Heir Apparent covered "The Sound of Silence" 1989 album One Small Voice".
  • In 1990, Brazilian singers Leandro e Leonardo covered "The sound of silence", rewritten as the love song "É Por Você que Canto" (It is for you that I sing). This version has since been recovered by other Portuguese/Brazilian groups.[54]
  • In 1996, Filipino singer Regine Velasquez interpolated the song as a "Prologue" and an "Epilogue" for her album Retro.
  • In 1996, Icelandic singer Emilíana Torrini covered "The Sound of Silence".
  • In 1999, Gregorian covered "The Sound of Silence" on their album Masters of Chant.
  • In 2000, Atrocity covered "The Sound of Silence" on their EP Sounds of Silence.
  • In 2000, Nevermore covered "The Sound of Silence" on their album Dead Heart in a Dead World.
  • In 2005, Italian singer Andrea Parodi, together with American guitarist Al Di Meola, covered the song, writing new lyrics in Sardinian language and renaming it Deo ti Gheria Maria (The Sound of Silence). This version is featured in his live album Midsummer Night in Sardinia.
  • Italian classical singer, Micheal Castaldo recorded an Italian version of this song on his 2010 album Aceto.
  • In 2007, rock duo Shaw Blades covered "The Sound of Silence" on their second album, Influence.
  • In 2007, New Zealand singer/songwriter, Brooke Fraser, released a live cover version on the deluxe edition of her album Albertine.
  • In 2008, the band Ascension of the Watchers covered "The Sound of Silence" on their album Numinosum.
  • In 2009, Bananarama covered "The Sound of Silence" on their tenth album Viva as an iTunes bonus track.
  • In 2010, Sharleen Spiteri covered "The Sound of Silence" on her album The Movie Songbook.
  • In 2011, the band Bobaflex covered "The Sound of Silence" on their album Hell in my Heart.
  • In 2011, Phil and Tim Hanseroth covered "The Sound of Silence" on Brandi Carlile's album Live at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony.
  • In 2011 Kina Grannis covered "The Sound of Silence" on the deluxe edition of her album Stairwells.
  • In 2011, jazz guitarist Pat Metheny opened on his Grammy Award-winning solo cover album What It's All About with "The Sound of Silence".
  • Two of Celtic Thunder's principal singers Keith Harkin and Colm Keegan covered the song for their 2013 album 'Mythology
  • In 2013, husband-wife duo Jenny & Tyler recorded the song as a part of their cover album For Freedom, the proceeds of which they designated for the International Justice Mission.
  • In 2015, Allison covered "The Sound of Silence" for the soundtrack in the 2015 French television series L'Emprise. The song charted on the official French Singles Chart, the SNEP.[55]
  • In 2015, James Blake covered "The Sound of Silence" and released the track on his official YouTube channel.
  • UK singer/songwriter Passenger regularly plays the song live as an introduction to his own song "Caravan"



  1. ^ Mastropolo, Frank (March 10, 2015). "51 Years Ago: Simon & Garfunkel Record Their First Classic, 'The Sounds of Silence'". Ultimate Classic Rock. 
  2. ^ "Simon & Garfunkel – Simon And Garfunkel's Greatest Hits". Discogs. 
  3. ^ a b c Eliot 2010, p. 39.
  4. ^ a b c Eliot 2010, p. 40.
  5. ^ Eliot 2010, p. 42.
  6. ^ Paul Simon - Interview - 7/6/1986 (video, Music Vault - He repeats the statement at 37m14s - at the 40min point he explains how his song American Tune was about the subject that covered the Kennedy assassinations)
  7. ^ Paul Simon Interview, CenterStage with Michael Kay (, video)
  8. ^ Schwartz, Tony (February 1984). "Playboy Interview" (PDF). Playboy 31 (2): 49–51, 162–176. 
  9. ^ Wynton Marsalis interview on CBS This Morning, circa 2012 (video)
  10. ^ Fornatale 2007, p. 38.
  11. ^ Eliot 2010, p. 47.
  12. ^ Eliot 2010, p. 48.
  13. ^ Eliot 2010, p. 53.
  14. ^ Eliot 2010, p. 58.
  15. ^ a b c Eliot 2010, p. 64.
  16. ^ Joe Bosso (August 1, 2012). "Interview: Art Garfunkel on his new greatest hits CD, The Singer". Music Radar. 
  17. ^ a b c d e Sullivan, Steve (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings, Volume 2. pp. 109–110. 
  18. ^ a b c d Simons, David. Studio Stories. pp. 95–96. 
  19. ^ a b Eliot 2010, p. 65.
  20. ^ Charlesworth, Chris (1996). "Sound of Silence". The Complete Guide to the Music of Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel. Omnibus Press. pp. 17–18. 
  21. ^ Simons, David (2004). Studio Stories: How the Great New York Records Were Made. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. pp. 94–97. 
  22. ^ Fornatale 2007, p. 45.
  23. ^ "Top Sellers in Top Markets" 77 (45). Billboard. November 6, 1965: 14. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved September 23, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Top Sellers in Top Markets" 77 (47). Billboard. November 20, 1965: 14–15. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved September 23, 2014. 
  25. ^ Billboard Charts Archives for 1965 and 1966
  26. ^ a b Fornatale 2007, p. 47.
  27. ^ Eliot 2010, p. 66.
  28. ^ Fornatale 2007, p. 48.
  29. ^ "BMI Top 100 Songs of the Century: 8 Million+ Performances" at the Wayback Machine (archived July 12, 2001), 1999 ( copy)
  30. ^ Hoffmann, Frank (2005). "Folk Rock". Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound. Volume 1 (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge. p. 408. ISBN 0-415-93835-X. 
  31. ^ "Simon & Garfunkel song among those to be preserved". CFN13. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  32. ^ Harris, Mark (2008). Pictures at a Revolution. Penguin. pp. 360–1. 
  33. ^ "The Sounds of Silence". Retrieved September 17, 2012. 
  34. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  35. ^ Hung, Steffen. "Simon & Garfunkel: The Sounds of Silence". Retrieved April 21, 2012. 
  36. ^ * Zimbabwe. Kimberley, C. Zimbabwe: singles chart book. Harare: C. Kimberley, 2000
  37. ^ "Italian single certifications – Simon & Garfunkel – The Sound of Silence" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved March 17, 2014.  Select Online in the field Sezione. Enter Simon & Garfunkel in the field Filtra. The certification will load automatically
  38. ^ "American single certifications – Simon & Garfunkel – Sounds of Silence". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved March 17, 2014.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  39. ^ "Disturbed Return with 'Immortalized' - Billboard". Billboard. 
  40. ^ "Video Premiere: Disturbed's Cover Version Of Simon & Garfunkel's 'The Sound Of Silence'". Blabbermouth. 
  41. ^ "Disturbed – Chart history" Canadian Hot 100 for Disturbed. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  42. ^
  43. ^ "Hard Rock Digital Songs, Jan 2, 2016". Billboard. Retrieved January 25, 2016. 
  44. ^ "Disturbed – Chart history" Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs for Disturbed. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  45. ^ "Disturbed – Chart history" Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 for Disturbed. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  46. ^
  47. ^ "Disturbed – Chart history" Billboard Hot Rock Songs for Disturbed. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  48. ^ "'Het geluid van stilte' lyrics". Boudewijn de Groot homepage. January 22, 2012. Retrieved April 21, 2012. 
  49. ^ "Covers by Los Mustang". WhoSampled. 
  50. ^ "The Soul Vendors and The Gaylads cover of Simon & Garfunkel's The Sounds of Silence - WhoSampled". WhoSampled. 
  51. ^ Mercy, Love Can Make You Happy Retrieved May 7, 2015
  52. ^ "Vlada I Bajka: Cecilia / Zvuk Tišine (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved April 21, 2012. 
  53. ^ "The Dickies: silent night / sounds of silence 7" [FLEX! discography]". 
  54. ^ Leonardo. "Leonardo: Discografia" (Flash) (in Portuguese). Retrieved July 4, 2012. 
  55. ^ Allisob [FR - "The Sound of Silence" song page


External links[edit]