Simon & Garfunkel: The Sound of Silence Meaning
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Song Released: 1965
Covered By: Bananarama (2009)
The Sound of Silence Lyrics
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.
anonymous Mar 16th, 2011 3:33am report
This may be coming from a generation to far into the distant future to understand the feelings of the time, but here it goes:
The first stanza Simon refers to darkness as being his "old friend" that he came to talk with because he was awoken in the middle of the night, of a nightmare that still lingers in his head, that gives his a considerable amount of distress. So bad that the awful visions were still flashing before his eyes as he is awake.
Second stanza begins setting the scene in which the dream took place: at night, him walking along the cobblestone road where he stops below the light of a streetlight. The cold chill runs up his back, so he lifts his collar to the "cold and damp." Just then, a blight neon sign lit up, showing that he, in fact, was not alone. But there were "ten thousand maybe more" all gathered in the cold night. The people who are talking, not speaking, are politicians, who are using false words to sway the population to vote for them, never revealing true intentions. The people therefore are hearing are not listening.
They are taking these words that are spoken to them in plain value, not examining or putting into depth anything that is said. Because of this, as referred to later, these politicians have formed a government that the people in fact voted for and supported until it began to act as a dictatorship. This seems that Simon is making an inditement to a large government that has taken away the freedoms of its people. A future for America it seemed with the rise of government in world affairs as in entered Vietnam. This "future America" has given Americans everything, and has the power the take it all away, hence the people "bow and pray to the neon god they made."
The Silence that is referred to is the silence of the people, afraid to say anything against the government for fear of death or worse. Simon, or whoever has had this dream, tries to bring people to speak out. Saying "Fools, you do not know, Silence like a cancer grows" that as more are afraid to speak, the more control the government takes and the less anyone will stand up to the new government.
As all hope is about to be given up, someone steps up and says to the crowd that the future they will hold has been written on the walls of subways and tenement halls. This is because this form of protest can be done anonymously, therefore no one can get in trouble for it. This begins the whispering in the silence of the people, and starts the beginning of a revolt.
-I hope you enjoyed a younger perspective on this classic song. USMCRIFLEMAN2006
linksysman2000 Apr 3rd, 2007 4:53pm report
The first verse is about a man who sees the wrongs in the world, but can do nothing about it, and seeks refuge, but finds none, thus there is “darkness” for him, and it isn’t the first time, because he calls darkness his “old friend”. This man wants change the world, and has a vision “planted in his brain” that still remains.
In his dreams, he is along in his vision, and he walks alone in all lonely places that he refers to, such as cobblestones and at night underneath a street lamp. Left to himself and his vision, he has his revelation, which I think is this “neon light” he is talking about. In this vision, he sees that there are thousands of people, maybe more, talking without speaking. They talk, but they really mean nothing, because they are empty. The same goes for their communications, because they hear, but take no heed, and though they try to share what they go through by means of music, no one is speaking or listening, so their voices are never shared. And yet no one dares to change this situation, and no one disturbs the silence of that lack of communication.
The man tries to tell people of what he sees, and understands enough to at least explain this vision of his, but like before, no one listens. Soon, people creates their own image and gods, whether it be money or fame or power, and bow to their idols and do whatever it took to worship their gods. The last part is that the truth is revealed to this man, that the future is really under the city, buried from all the coldness of a lack of communication, and the same goes for tenements, where people live so close but yet so far away. That is the future, because people are cold and will remain that way because they refuse to change or even reconsider.
anonymous Oct 16th, 2010 10:20am report
I think the neon light is a literal neon light, and the gods are the pop culture icons. The "talking without speaking" and "hearing without listening" seems to be like most pointless talk these days. He tries to stop the mindless advance of culture, but those who go against the flow are few and far between, so his words aren't listened to. This is my humble opinion, don't flame me.
anonymous Aug 20th, 8:49am report
I used to think songs had meanings. I now think there was a trend in the 60s to create profound-sounding lyrics that seemed to make little sense - because they give the impression that something profound is hidden in the words.
In reality, people like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen etc have little to offer. We would be better off studying with a traditional teacher, working with disadvantaged people etc.
anonymous Aug 3rd, 8:13pm report
It's someone who has experienced cronic depression confronting it, recognising he's not alone, and how religion is a fake remedy.
This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
anonymous Dec 12th, 2013 12:02pm report
I suffer from depression at times and I think of the darkness as depression, although it is not my friend except for the fact that I excape reality at the time. "Left its seeds while I was sleeping" to me means that one day I'm OK and the next morning I can just wake up depressed. The "silence" is the isolation I do when depressed. "In restless dreams I walked alone" is that I feel so all alone when depressed. "I turn my collar to the cold and damp" is me cuddleing up in my warm bed and sleeping all the time. "When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light that split the night" is me coming out of the darkess (depression) into the light of happiness again. I could go on with the rest but I think you get the message.
anonymous Nov 11th, 2013 11:22pm report
It's about the death of Kennedy.
kooljohn176 Sep 29th, 2013 9:52pm report
this song has many meanings and representations according to peoples theory on it. to me this is a person wakeing up from a dream early morning before daybreak, say around 4 o'clock, a good time to write words down from dream meaning. hello darkness my old friend may represent the shadow side of himself that he does not feel polarized from, like darkness is only the absence of light. from the dream, the seed was planted is the idea to write it down before it dries up in silence. the song goes into the feeling of an intuitive and melancholic individual who takes lonely walks, but never feels alone,speaks more with his mind, instead of his voice, but needs to express himself from knowing well the reality of the world that he is living in, otherwise it can spread like cancer. when the eyes were stabbed by the flash of neon lights,split the night, this could be about the reality that he looked at was polarized in his eyes of some of the peoples awareness of it. some quiet people talk without speaking,some talkative people hear without listening to these materialistic gods of the unnatural light that influence us. going back to the verse , turn my collar to the cold and damp, here he could be in the mindset of a priest that wants to give warmth in love to people. he wants to take our hand and warn us of the future doom that he sees coming through some of the false prophets of advertisements for profit, but not necesserly graffiti artists.
anonymous Aug 28th, 2013 8:26am report
He had a dream about a loss that causes him great sadness. It's a loss that he has felt sadness for before and continues to try to deal with unsuccessfully. This takes him to a dark place (depression) that is familiar because he has visited it before. It gives him a comfort in that he can release his sadness there, and then go on for a while before he is overcome again. The loss he feels seems to be the realization that we are all alone in life and no one is really listening or talking, yet the desperation of life and loss is a condition of all people, unsolvable and can be observed and evidenced everywhere.
anonymous Jul 28th, 2013 7:37pm report
It could mean this, it could mean that. One thing I am almost positive about...it doesn't really matter what it means. I highly doubt Simon is a sage/enlightened being....maybe he is. But we would just be guessing. And if he isn't, then he is just an average joe who became a rock star and we are trying to break down his lyrics like he has some sort of masterful knowledge that we don't.
anonymous Jul 28th, 2013 7:34pm report
It probably has no real meaning. He probably just wrote down what he thought sounded good in his mind. And now we, the fanboys and groupies sit here and try to break it all down. Break down something that has no meaning.
JK. That was joke, but it technically COULD Be that. haha. But I understand why people want to know the meaning especially if they like the song and listen to it a lot. I think there is no permanent ONE meaning too it. I think it means whatever you want it to mean and I think that's why Simon won't tell us what it means(unless he already has.) I guess maybe he just doesn't want to ruin the song for those that get a different interpretation out of it.
anonymous Jul 25th, 2013 7:26am report
When I recently heard the song and thought about what it meant the first thing that came to mind was "enlightenment." BECAUSE:
1. "Hello darkness my old friend."
When you listen to silence itself your mind becomes very still/quiet and it kind of takes you to a place of non knowing which could also be considered darkness. It is a joyous state to be in because it's like being a child which is where calling it "old friend" would come in.
2. "I've come to talk with you again."
In that quiet stillness everything seems much more alive/connected as if it is a part of you but at the same time greater than you. You talk to it as if it is God(and it very well may be.)
3."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."
People who become more conscious/alert during their waking state by meditating(quieting their mind into silence) usually have lucid dreams where they can learn from them by being awake through them.
I could keep breaking it down on why I thought it meant enlightenment the first time around. But the reasons it doesn't seem like enlightenment now that I think of it and has that more literal meaning that people come up with is:
1. It has a sad sound too it. I don't think enlightenment has anything to do with sorrow.
2. "Silence like a cancer grows." Now, if you listen to silence itself it does expand/grow as the mind quiets but why would he call it a cancer when in fact it is a good thing?
3. And of course when looking at it from a literal standpoint it all makes a lot of sense.
Now it could have a double meaning and be intended to be that way but I doubt it. I just find it kind of ironic that it is called "Sound of silence" which is exactly what spiritual teachers tell you to do is to listen to silence. And I understand through direct experience why they tell you to do that and that is what attracted me to the title to begin with. There are two kinds of silence, silence within the mind(no thoughts) and outer silence(the world if nothing is happening around you.)
Apparently it's about the latter.
anonymous May 27th, 2013 5:59pm report
This song is about the ultimate loneliness an abduction experience by aliens brings to a young person. Symbols used :
darkness = all the things he doesn't know and he doesn't understand
silence = the taboo, what he wants to speak about but he can not
the vision that was planted in his brain = the screenmemory that aliens put in your conscious brain to hide the true experience and keep everything hidden
a vision softly creeping left me while... = he tries to remember what he has seen but he can not remember
the seeds = the knowledge that will later on be able to transform him but is now in a stage where it is only seeds, very small
tenthousand people maybe more = he knows he is not alone with this, but they are all silent,
silence like a cancer grows = it gets bigger and bigger and it's not good
people talking withhout speaking = experiencers cannot bring the message over!
people hearing without hearing : no one believes it or grasps the reality of what is going on
the words of the prophets are written ... = the knowledge of what is to come is underground, spelled out, at the edge of society, being ignored mainstream
ericjfrench May 7th, 2013 5:12am report
I haven't seen any interviews with Paul Simon but I am a good reader of character. He strikes me as a very deep thinker and I'll bet he is well versed in what is in the Old Testament. Therefore, he would surely know many of the stories and their meaning. We have so very many saying today from the Bible and Simon uses them in this song and his other songs as well. "the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls" is not a line pulled from nowhere...it's straight from the Bible, book of Daniel, chapter 5, where a mysterious hand writes out warnings of doom.
The song is about people turing away from God and worshiping false idols...in the Bible it was the golden calf or baal, sexual depravity, these days it's money, drugs, greed, work, sexual depravity...hmmm pretty much the same thing, anything that takes us further from God.
Silence is one of the stages when any society turns away from God. Read the book of Judges in the Bible. The people stop teaching their children about God and become "silent". Once silence becomes embedded in society, political correctness ensues, and it becomes almost impossible for the "prophets" to tell the truth to the people. Many won't listen at all, some will listen but not "hear". So the prophets send their messages anyway they can. Subway walls, tenement halls are simply metaphors for blogs, tweets, any place where the truth can be told.
This song was written in the early 60's (I know, released in '65, but surely Simon wrote it prior to '65) and his message was about Viet Nam, the establishment, and heavy handed tyrannical government. The genius of Simon is that this song is just as powerful today, if not more so. Indeed, this song is less about events of a particular era and more about human nature itself, and so becomes timeless.
anonymous Mar 22nd, 2013 3:09pm report
Unknowingly he talks about what is happening right now under this administration and we better all start doing something to stop it read the top rated interpretation it could very well be today!
anonymous Feb 19th, 2013 2:23pm report
I recently sat with a young woman with Dementia. I played this song and listened to it while looking at her and realized that she is trapped in the sounds of silence. The vision planted in her brain is her past world. The darkness is her world now, dark and confusing.
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