Feelin’ groovy in a Simon and Garfunkel funk

“We Will Rock You.” There was something appealing about a medieval jousting contest set to that 1977 hit song. Two things happened when my kids watched that movie, “A Knight’s Tale.” First, they became Heath Ledger devotees. Second, they fell in love with the music of “Queen.”

It really struck a chord with my son, Connor, who was only five at the time. He could feel his musical mercury rising. As in FREDDIE Mercury. A decade later, he still listens to Queen and is hooked on “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

“You know, Freddie died of complication from AIDS,” I told him one day, not long ago.

“Say it ain’t so,” he replied. “I mean, I knew he was dead, but assumed it was due to typical musician’s drug overdose.” He hated the thought his new/old musical idol may have suffered a chronic illness. Nope. No dope. But something just as deadly that Mercury managed to keep low-key, the same way he was always on key with his magnificent four-octave range.

I appreciate my son’s appreciation for “classic music from when Mom was young.” Although Toto had long ago confirmed we were no longer in Kansas, I smile, knowing my son has been listening repeatedly to Kansas singing “Dust in the Wind,” which also came out in 1977. Keep in mind (my carrying on, wayward son), I was only 14 at the time, and danced to it in middle school. But I knew even then it was especially good and had staying power.

Fast forward to 2015, when David Draimon of the group “Disturbed” released a lower and slower version of “The Sound of Silence.”

“You’ve got to hear this song,” my daughter told me. Truthfully, I tuned out in advance of the tune she was determined I listen to, as I was certain it would be another John Legend ballad or Meghan Trainor song built on the foundation of a 1950’s beat. Instead, I heard a deeply haunting rendition of a familiar Simon and Garfunkel hit.

“Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again,” Disturbed’s lead singer Draimon mined the minor pathos of this classic musical product of the 60s. “Because a vision softly creeping, left its seeds while I was sleeping,” I openly sang along to it in the car.

“How do you know this?” my daughter demanded. “You never listen to the radio or youtube.”

Don’t have to when it comes to musical visions like this that are planted in my brain and still remain. Paul Simon started writing “The Sound of Silence” the year I was born (1963) and finished three months into the next. It was so poorly received by record executives that he and Art Garfunkel parted ways over its failure. But an associate took the song and remixed it behind their backs and got airplay. The result was a #1 Billboard Charts hit and the reuniting of the duo that had recorded the initial flop.

Back when “The Sound of Silence” was written, my parents were in their early 30s and likely still somewhat into the pop culture of the day. As a teacher of high school students, my mother would have been exposed to a variety of teen music; hence the Simon and Garfunkel vinyl that appeared in their record collection. My older sister and I played it endlessly in an effort to be as groovy as the record’s tracks and the high school students we knew liked it.

I liked the ethereal feel of the song and its abstract lyrics. Admittedly, they held little personal meaning in my pre-school days. Five decades later, my interpretation is based on personal experience: “People talking without speaking; people hearing without listening” describes society going-through-the-motions without actually engaging – the kind of stuff I often write about. Just not as poetically.

At 52, I think the stanza, “and the people bowed and prayed, to the neon God they made,” describes worshipping false idols and creation, rather than the creator. Again, I’m not nearly as poetic as Paul Simon’s lyrics. Nevertheless, I’m happy to have darkness, my old friend, in which to process it all. Sometimes silence is too bright and noisy for my taste.




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