How Simon & Garfunkel’s "The Sound Of Silence" Almost Didn't Happen

By | July 26, 2022

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Pop duo Simon and Garfunkel performing on ITV's 'Ready, Steady, Go!', July 8, 1966. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“Hello Darkness, my old friend” forever lives as the infamous line of Simon & Garfunkel’s first hit, “The Sound of Silence.” While most people know the line, few realize how close the #1 hit of New Year's Day in 1966 came to fading into obscurity. In fact, if just one of a number of tiny decisions had gone the other way, the names Simon & Garfunkel might not mean anything. From the darkness of an unlit bathroom in Queens, New York to the #1 hit in the United States, here’s the unlikely story of “The Sound Of Silence.”

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Contrary to popular belief, the song was not about Vietnam. amazon

Perfect Timing

Simon got his first gig as music’s version of a door-to-door salesman fresh out of college. “My job was to take the songs that this huge publishing company owned and go around to record companies and see if any of their artists wanted to record the songs. I worked for them for about six months and never got a song placed, but I did give them a couple of my songs because I felt so guilty about taking their money.”

Right as a little ditty called “The Sound Of Silence” began burbling in Simon’s head, he realized that giving away songs for free wasn’t ideal. “Then I got into an argument with them and said, 'Look, I quit, and I'm not giving you my new song.' And the song that I had just written was 'The Sound of Silence.' I thought, 'I'll just publish it myself,' and from that point on, I owned my own songs, so that was a lucky argument.”

An Instant Seller

The young musician then began auditioning for a publishing deal and played his future hit for Tom Wilson at Columbia Records. Wilson loved it for a band called “The Pilgrims” but Simon stole the show by performing a duet version with fellow New Yorker Art Garfunkel. Upon hearing the duo perform “The Sound of Silence,” Columbia immediately signed them.

To this point, if Simon sold his future hit or failed to wow executives with Garfunkel, the classic would have likely disappeared. Yet, Simon & Garfunkel’s first sensation still needed to clear one more massive “what if?”