Paul Simon is an artist who makes more sense to me the older I get. I bought Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hts for my 86 year old mother last Christmas at her request. And how wise she was to ask for it. I could easily choose any of their Sixties albums to write about their importance. The Greatest Hits are enough but it would be a shame not to investigate further.
They were saying something slightly different from any other musical artists of that particular decade. Which is why their records have endured and not dated while much music from those years seems mired in its times.
The two great gifts they brought to the table were silence and clarity. They are values that prevail. I've chosen to write about Sounds of Silence here, but you might as well listen to any of their records. Cerainly this and the one that came out a few months later in 1966, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme seem a piece and make a great single sitting listening experience.
A suite that should be listened to right the way through as as good a document of that year as any other. The records provided the musical backdrop to the following year's The Graduate, still one of my all time favourite films.
The Graduate is impossible to think of without considering the songs of these two albums. Documenting a time of general conflict and change, ( generational, political, cultural and racial), in the calmest and most rational but also empathetic way imaginable.
The Graduate says nothing specific about the latter. Neither do Simon & Garfunkel really, although it's implicitly there in both cases as the racial contradiction was at the heart of the American dilemma, then and now.
So Simon & Garfunkel sing their songs. Not necessaily for the hip, as Bob Dylan had pretty much cornered that quarter of that particular market in 1966. While Dylan asked any number of questions, went electric and left the kids to puzzle out the answers, Simon stayed mostly acoustic and when they were electric, it was quiet electric, spoke relatively clearly and seemed to say that the answers lay in contemplation, reflection and consideration rather than giving the finger to the man .
Any great artist look to speak to their times and to eternity. Simon & Garfunkel do both here. The focus from Simon in his lyrics is often biblical, generally New rather than Old Testament for the most part.Garfunkel meanwhile is the ace card. He brings the harmony.
I think Sounds of Silence is slightly the better album of the two but what does it matter. They speak of wisdom beyond the years of either of them, combined frankly. They speak of how it's more powerful sometimes to whisper than to scream, to listen rather than to speak.
There's something eternal about these records. They speak of love and ask for peace while fully expecting more war, They're the still point of the turning world and deserve to be fully appreciated .