I just read that a magazine called Blenders once ranked Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" as the 42nd worst song ever.
The magazine complained that the song seemed too preachy and self-important, and offered the experience of being lectured by a freshman. "If Frasier Crane were a song, he would sound like this," it commented.
Specifically, the article complained about the lyrics, "Here my words that I might teach you," and editor Craig Marks explained, "Simon and Garfunkel thunder away in voices that suggest they're scowling and wagging their fingers as they sing. The overall experience is like being lectured on the meaning of life by a jumped-up freshman."
Of course the song is preachy, even pretentious. It is meant a rebuke of pop culture, of the kind of civilization that buys prints of Campbell's soup cans and reads magazine's like Blender. Any poet, any person with an eye for beauty and truth, any philosopher who speaks truly can be perceived as wagging a finger. Socrates wagged his finger, as did Moses, Jesus, Luther, Jefferson, Thoreau, Rothbard, King (Martin Luther, Jr.--not Rodney), etc. That's what truth does. It looks at the ignorant and it says, "No, no, no."
That Blender would object is not surprising. Fools dislike it when they are revealed. Craig Marks's comments are reminiscent of those who ridiculed the free man in Socrates's "Allegory of the Cave."
"The Sound of Silence" is a lyrical masterpiece. If it comes across to you as preachy, it's because you know that you're at fault. One with an appreciation what what really constitutes truth cannot help but sympathize with the song's narrator. Wisdom, for all its merits, is a state of loneliness, and Paul Simon captured this perfectly in his lyrics.
Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seed while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence.
In restless dreams I walk 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 shared
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.
"Fools," said I, "you do no 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 world 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...