Article 20

Rock On

Sounds of Silence -Simon & Garfunkel

(Published in Times of India, Pune on 20th October, 2001)

I have often heard complaints from local people about Western Music and its lack of depth. It is perceived as noisy clutter with poor melodic content. According to them, the lyrics seem to only talk about inconsequential boy-girl issues with no poetic values while the relentless primitive beat can only awaken the most basic instincts in oneself. Unfortunately the mush, dished out by the Channel Vs and MTVs of the current Indian TV scenario, has reinforced this notion. I can assure you that this is not true and can prove it too! The diversity of western Pop music has to be heard to be believed and dance music is just one genre in the world of Western music. To illustrate my point, there can be no better example than Simon and Garfunkel, the Folk Rock heroes of the sixties and one of the biggest selling artistes of the 20th century.

Influenced by one of the earliest vocal duos, the Everly Brothers, this act entered the Pop Music world under the innocuous name of "Tom and Jerry" and actually scored a US hit with their very first song. Unfortunately, nothing exciting followed and Garfunkel went back to college while Simon continued his solo career. They regrouped briefly later to record the album "Wednesday Morning 3AM" which contained an acoustic rendering of "The Sound Of Silence". Once again, the album bombed and it looked like it was curtains for this duo. Fortunately for all, fate had other plans for this lucky twosome. The famous producer, Tom Wilson, who had achieved great success with the popular Folk Rock band, "The Byrds", heard "The Sound Of Silence" and in keeping with the latest craze for Folk Rock, decided to add electric instrumentation to it.

Paul Simon, the principal songwriter of the duo, was also an incredibly gifted music composer who had the knack of coming out with great melodies, fabulous voicings and clever words that mesmerized the audience. He was also blessed with a singing voice that was touching and personal. It almost felt like he was whispering the words in your ear. Garfunkel, on the other hand, had a heavenly voice with a towering range. Together, they were dynamite and were soon to conquer the world with a series of albums that seemed to get better with every day! Within a year, the album " Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme" was to follow. It contained one of their biggest international hits "Mrs. Robinson" which was featured in the soundtrack of the movie hit "The Graduate". Also songs like "At The Zoo" and "Fakin' It" which further reinforced the reputation of the songwriting genius, Simon.

My favorite album "Bookends" was to follow. Simon and Garfunkel now seemed to found the maturity to craft an outstanding work of Art that would become the preferred album of choice for millions of Americans of that time. "America", "Save The Life Of My Child" and "Old Friends" were some of the masterpieces from that epic album. And yet, the best was still to come! One of the best-selling albums of all time (303 weeks on the UK chart) was next for this unstoppable duo. "Bridge over troubled waters" was the title of this album whose title track is considered by many worldwide polls to be the no 1 song of the century. The duo had reached the very top of their spiraling career. I guess there was no place to go but down for the duo from here. The relationship between the two partners deteriorated sharply and before we knew it, they split up to go their separate ways! One of Pop Music's greatest chapters came to an abrupt end.

Later, Simon embarked on a successful solo career that resulted in some great and very successful albums. Garfunkel also recorded solo albums which, although less successful than Simon's, were always critically acclaimed. Since the break in 1970, numerous attempts to unite the duo have failed although the two have got together to do a number of shows together. One such memorable event was captured on tape in "The Concert in Central Park" album in 1981. A whole generation's memories have been linked with the music of these masters and their songs will always be played over and over again all over the world. Here's hoping that the duo get together for a comeback album, so that their fans, like me, can once again enjoy the beauty of the harmonies and the warmth of the lyrics.

Rock on!

Nandu Bhende











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