Monday, March 8, 2010

A look back in thyme

I was listening, the other night, to one of the albums in a set given to me by my son some years ago - a set consisting of five albums produced by Simon and Garfunkel between 1964 and 1970. This particular album, which I hadn't heard for decades, blew me away, all over again.

It was called "Sounds of Silence," and I think it informs the boomer generation better than any other music - including that of rock stars, pop divas, the Beatles, even Elvis. The songs of writer Simon, and the stunning tenor of Garfunkel, spoke to kids of our time. And the "Sound of Silence" (the song title lacked the "s" that was on the album cover) pretty much said it all.

The song actually appeared on Simon and Garfunkel's first album, called "Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m.," but by early 1965 - a time when the Beatles where in mid-invasion and Dylan was driving kids nuts - a record producer named Tom Wilson added to the all-acoustic, folk-rock song "Sound of Silence" a rhythm section and an electric guitar. He delivered the singers' second album, and the result - "Sounds of Silence" - was just what young people really wanted to hear: songs for people alienated by war in Southeast Asia, aghast at stubborn rejection of something so right as an end to racial segregation, and deep unease at what seemed to be an empty consumer culture.

The song "Sound of Silence" starts like this:

"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
Still remains
Within the sound of silence."

The song's lyrics kept getting better, as did the duo's work on subsequent albums. The voices, especially Garfunkel's, were unforgettable - until it all ended far too soon after a song of solace called "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

I'm sure there are deep truths to be found in albums like these. But I think I'll just quit now so I can put on "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme."

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