The tale of Simon and Garfunkel is one for the ages. The duo, who bonded over music as teenagers, first performed under the name of Tom & Jerry before evolving their artistry to breathtaking heights. Although personal problems between the pair persist to this day, those very same tensions fuelled Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel to greatness.
The group, who last performed together in 2010, have always had underlying problems in their relationship, but they were born to make music together. Despite their immense talent, the Simon and Garfunkel journey was set to end in 1964 following the release of their debut album Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., which failed to trouble the charts.
However, they were still young, and Garfunkel returned to Columbia to finish his studies, leaving music in his past. Meanwhile, Simon moved to England to pursue a solo career, immersing himself in the British folk scene and eventually releasing his debut album, The Paul Simon Songbook, in 1965.
They were both content with how their lives had panned out, but much to their surprise, their song ‘The Sound of Silence’ became a sleeper hit in the United States. Their label shared a new mix of the track without telling the act, and in early 1966, it sold one million copies while topping the Billboard Hot 100. It also led to Simon and Garfunkel reuniting to capitalise on their newfound success.
‘The Sound of Silence’ was single-handedly responsible for changing the fortunes of Simon and Garfunkel’s career, for which they’ll always be grateful. It’s a song that has tugged on the heartstrings of people from around the globe, including Dublin’s favourite son, Bono.
In celebration of his 60th birthday in 2020, the U2 frontman shared a list of his favourite 60 songs of all time, which included ‘The Sound of Silence’. In an open letter to the two musicians, Bono wrote: “The poet Allen Ginsberg told me once that more than a few of the poets, songwriters and artists he admired had seen visions… and that was before they experimented with psychoactive drugs. He described a vision as an experience ‘bigger than the eyes or rational mind’. I nodded as if I knew what he meant and I still think I do.”
He poignantly continued: “When I heard you guys singing this song I was 12 or 13 and at my most porous to music. Puberty was expanding my mind, as well as my libido, and I remember thinking this song is not just about prayer, it is a prayer… it speaks to the silence and at the end of the song the silence answers back saying… ‘The words of the prophet are, Written on the subway walls, And tenement hall, And whispered in the sound of silence’.”
Although the duo both went on to write a flurry of more iconic tracks both together and as solo artists, Simon later described ‘The Sound of Silence’ as the “most lasting” song of his career. It transformed his life’s fortunes, dragging him from England back into the arms of Garfunkel to tackle their unfinished business.
Listen to ‘The Sound of Silence’ below.