Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend — Where are the Musicians?

A recent story about Joan Baez speaking with protesters who accused her of betraying soldiers during the Vietnam War reminded me of something that has been nagging me for some time. Where are the musicians? We are locked in a fight for the political and moral well-being of the country but there is apparently no folk-music building around the struggle, no anthem for the truth we seek to find amid the torrent of lies, deceptions and self-dealing with which the Trump administration has disgraced the United States.

Everyone who lived through the ‘60s and the upheaval generated by the Vietnam War will recall the many artists who gave us some of our iconic folk and protest songs that were one of the defining elements of what came to be called the counter-culture. So far, at least, the RESISTANCE to the Trump administration has no such identifying music or musicians, though there are a number of familiar chants associated with the protest marches. There is also, I am told, some rap music that may fit the description of protest anthems but they seem unlikely to become widely known as representative of the broader issues involved in the Resistance to Trump and his enablers.

I, for one, miss the music. The lyrics of the Sound of Silence, the masterpiece by Paul Simon (©Universal Music Publishing Group), seem particularly apropos of our current circumstances:

‘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

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

Fools, said I, you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence’

2 thoughts on “Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend — Where are the Musicians?

  1. shiningseausa Post author

    Perhaps but I think comedy has a different role and is, of course, not easily reproduced in the course of protests. It therefore lacks the unifying force that I believe is provided by songs. SNL is doing great stuff but who can mimic Alec Baldwin or McCarthy doing Spicer? Anyone with a guitar and modicum of ability could produce a serviceable version of “Sound of Silence” and the other great anthems of the 60s.



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