Iconic songs have been remade by artists throughout the ages, with varying degrees of success on each effort. In the case of the 1964 Simon & Garfunkel hit, “The Sounds of Silence,” the warm response it recently received from fans and the original artist himself are a testament to the ability of all songs to connect with different genres of music.
In this particular case, the song was recorded by the heavy metal band, Disturbed, for their 2015 album, Immortalized, and performed before a live audience on Conan O’Brien’s talk show of March 28.
Despite Disturbed’s image being one of delivering hard-driving songs, no attempt was made to offer an uptempo version of the Paul Simon original. Instead, the group’s lead singer, David Draiman, performed it just as Simon has done for the last half-century.
The band performed the song in conjunction with an orchestra that offered a more elaborate rendition than when it was first recorded as an acoustic ballad. Lasting approximately four minutes, the enthusiastic audience applause was a clear endorsement of the effort.
However, the performance gained more traction after Simon himself sent Draiman an e-mail that called the performance “really powerful,” and indicating that it was the first time he had seen the band perform it live.
Simon also took the time to post his comments and a link to the performance on his own Facebook page, this time simply referring to it as “a wonderful rendition.”
Draiman was honored enough by Simon writing him an e-mail that he posted a screen shot of the message on the Disturbed Facebook page. He also indicated that the song was specifically chosen to honor Simon for his long catalog of memorable music.
The seeming oddity of a heavy metal group performing a soft ballad was explained earlier this year by Draiman. He noted that his musical roots were in classical music, having been trained as a cantor.
The group’s drummer, Mike Wengren suggested that the group record a Simon & Garfunkel song, with Draiman then choosing “The Sound of Silence.” However, Draiman indicated that there was some concern about the fact that the legendary nature of the song might lead the band to endure criticism for attempting it.
Disturbed’s album was released in August 2015 and debuted in the top spot on the American charts, though the song itself wasn’t released until December 8. It marked the fifth consecutive album to debut at number one, with Metallica and The Dave Matthews Band the only other groups to achieve that accolade.
The group has made a tradition of offering a cover version of an older song on each of its previous albums, though primarily from the 1980’s.
Simon originally wrote the song over a period of several months, spanning the latter half of 1963 and early 1964. It was recorded that March as part of Simon & Garfunkel’s debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.
Ironically, the original release of the song in October 1964 met with indifference. After getting some radio airplay the following spring, the song was remixed and released in September 1965.
The song reached the top spot on the record charts in January 1966 and reunited the group, which had broken up in the aftermath of the original failure.
The lasting popularity of the song ranked it among the Top 20 most-performed songs of the 20th Century in 1999, and it was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2013. It was also part of the opening credits of the 1967 film, “The Graduate.”