Recorded on August 22nd, 1966, “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night” is the twelfth and final track on “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”, a 1966 album by Simon and Garfunkel. The track consists of an overdubbing of two contrasting recordings: a simple arrangement of the Christmas carol “Silent Night”, and a simulated “7 O’Clock News” bulletin of the actual events of 3 August 1966.
The “Silent Night” track consists of Simon and Garfunkel singing the first verse twice over, accompanied by Garfunkel on piano. The voice of the newscaster is that of Charlie O’Donnell, then a radio disc jockey. As the track progresses, the song becomes fainter and the news report louder. Matthew Greenwald calls the effect “positively chilling”. Bruce Eder describes the track as “a grim and ironic (and prophetic) comment on the state of the United States in 1966”.
Simon & Garfunkel are an American singer-songwriter duo consisting of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. They formed the group Tom & Jerry in 1957, and had their first taste of success with the minor hit “Hey, Schoolgirl”. As Simon & Garfunkel, the duo rose to fame in 1965, backed by the hit single “The Sounds of Silence”. Their music was featured in the landmark film “The Graduate”, propelling them further into the public consciousness.
They are well known for their close vocal harmonies and were among the most popular recording artists of the 1960s; among their biggest hits, in addition to “The Sounds of Silence”, were “Bridge over Troubled Water”, “I Am a Rock”, “Homeward Bound”, “A Hazy Shade of Winter”, “Mrs. Robinson”, “The Boxer”, “Cecilia”, and “Scarborough Fair/Canticle”. They have received several Grammys and are inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame (2007).
Their sometimes rocky relationship led to their last album, “Bridge over Troubled Water”, being delayed several times due to artistic disagreements and as a result the duo broke up in 1970. But Simon and Garfunkel have reunited to perform and sometimes tour together in every decade since the 1970 breakup, most famously for 1981’s “The Concert in Central Park,” which attracted about 500,000 people, and they have toured very successfully since then.
The following events are reported in the newscast in the song in the order given:
- A dispute in the House of Representatives over “the civil rights bill”. It is stated that President Johnson had originally proposed a full ban on discrimination for any type of housing — dismissed as “having no chance” — and that “a compromise was painfully worked out in the House Judiciary Committee.”
- The death of comedian Lenny Bruce from an overdose of narcotics at the age of 42 [actually 40].
- Dr. Martin Luther King reaffirming plans for an open housing Civil Rights march into Cicero, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. It is stated that Cook County sheriff Richard Ogilvie urged its cancellation, and that Cicero police plan to ask the National Guard to be called in.
- The grand jury indictment of Richard Speck for the murder of nine [actually eight] student nurses.
- Disruption by protesters at House Un-American Activities Committee hearings into anti-Vietnam War protests
- A speech by “former Vice-President Richard Nixon” to the Veterans of Foreign Wars [actually to the American Legion] urging an increase in the war effort in Vietnam, and calling opposition to the war the “single greatest weapon working against the United States”.
Take a look at this score and learn the lyrics of the song:
And now enjoy a video of the song including a transcription of the news bulletin: