February 24, 2003

Sounds of Silence at the Grammys

In spite of threats by CBS to turn the microphones off if anyone spoke against the war, there was an anti-war message at the Grammys. It was there even without coming out in explicit terms. It began with Simon and Garfunkel, the original guys, looking and sounding amazingly like they did nearly 40 years ago when they originally sang "Sounds of Silence." Perhaps if you'd never seen them, it may not be clear, but for those who remember them during the Vietnam War, and their "Silent Night/6 PM News", the anti-war message was there.

The lyrics of "Sounds of Silence" are mysterious and dreamlike, but to me it spoke of the current situation when somehow the great outrages of the time are not being addressed in most public forums. Here we are, our government about to plunge us all into a new status as attackers of helpless third world countries, and all around is silence. A terrible madness pervades the culture, but on the surface "no one there disturbed the sound of silence."

"People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening..."

After Simon & Garfunkel finished, Dustin Hoffmann came on. He recently made headlines coming out against the war upon acceptance of an award in Europe. His presence evoked the message again, without his saying anything.

There were a few times during the ceremonies that the anti-war message broke through the surface. The musicians were like kids in school, forbidden to speak of the dreaded war, but unwilling to refrain totally.

And then there was the music. Songs like "London Calling" performed in tribute to the Clash. How could that be anything other than anti-war? All art is inherently humanistic and anti-war. There is no getting around it. When did you last hear a pro-war song? Even "The Ballad of the Green Berets" has an underlying message of people who give their lives for the cause of justice and defense of freedom. It's silent on the subject of killing.

So the musicians at the Grammys got their anti-war message out without explicit political speeches. It was underlying the sounds of silence.

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