High Notes 2018

Songs for the New Year: Paul Simon classics that remind us to break the silence – and never give up

Scroll staffers pick their favourite tunes.

The Sound of Silence



Paul Simon once said that the lyrics of The Sound of Silence were post-adolescent angst – how no one was listening to him, how no one was listening to anyone. But the American folk rock song released in Simon and Garfunkel’s debut LP in 1964 went on to become one of the most recognised symbols of protest against war, and a warning about a society without empathy.

There have been many covers of The Sound of Silence in the 50 years since it was released and a new version by heavy metal band Disturbed seems to have struck a chord with many listeners. With vocals by the band’s lead singer David Draiman, the song is slower and darker than the original. The music video shot in black and white is meant to be haunting and is a little too obvious with images of silent, dust-covered musical instruments and masses of motionless, blank-faced people. But it may still be that Simon’s words are as relevant to the YouTube generation as they were to the Americans protesting the Vietnam War. As we continue to witness horrific sexual abuse, bans on art and mob lynchings, some silences have been broken – but too many still remain. – Nayantara Narayanan

The Boxer

Paul Simon


On June 3, 2016, Paul Simon paused while singing a verse of The Boxer during a concert in California, looked to the audience and said, “I’m sorry to tell you like this, but Muhammad Ali has passed away.” He then continued to sing the last verse of the song with these lyrics:

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame,
“I am leaving, I am leaving.”
But the fighter still remains…

The Boxer is a song by Simon and Garfunkel from their 1969 album Bridge Over Troubled Water. It is as relevant as ever because of its lyrics that remind us to find the fighter within. This song makes me feel energised every time I hear it. The feeling comes from the sudden lift this song takes by the loud crashing drums in the refrain. It is this sound that many people remember most about this song. From a calm and almost peaceful tone, the drums take over to produce an sensation of elation. That’s the sound with which I would like to start the New Year.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic, and not by the Scroll editorial team.