Look back at Bob Dylan and Paul Simon duet on ‘The Sound of Silence’ in 1999
It’s always a rare pleasure to see two of the world’s foremost songwriters of all time share the stage. Even rarer still to see them both complimenting one another. Here we look back at Bob Dylan and Paul Simon’s duet on ‘The Sound of Silence’ from 1999.
Paul Simon may have been sharing the stage with another man for many years before he and Dylan toured together in 1999. After all, it was his work as part of Simon & Garfunkel that had largely offered him the chance to take the stage at all.
Dylan is a natural fit for Simon. The freewheelin’ Bob Dylan had softened somewhat in his old age and was no longer determined to dominate the stage, now he was keen that his legacy of some of the best live performances ever known, continued. In whatever guise those performances could.
The connection between Dylan and Simon is one that goes way back. Simon & Garfunkel had covered Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ on their 1964 debut Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.. It was a favour returned by Dylan some five years later as he took on ‘The Boxer’ for his record Self Portrait.
While their paths rarely crossed over the years after this it did establish mutual respect between the singers. It meant that when the duo came around to tour with one another they were keen to ensure that both fans’ needs were met. Rolling Stone reports that shortly before the tour, Dylan and Simon got together at the latter’s New York apartment with a couple of acoustic guitars and began to strum their way into a setlist.
KIt must’ve been a fruitful evening of swapping stories and teaching one another songs, “I consider him one of the preeminent songwriters of our time,” Dylan told USA Today before the tour began. “Every song he does has got a vitality you don’t find everywhere.”
“We were singing folk songs,” Simon said, reflecting the evening of setlist sketching. “Some were obscure, some were better known. It was just two acoustic guitars and it sounded great. But as we got closer to the show, it became apparent what people wanted to hear was us singing each other’s songs. So that’s what we did.”
Beginning at the World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on June 6th, 1999, it was to be a sensational tour for all those who saw it. As the two headliners continued to swap over who opened for each other, the crossover moments between the artists is what really had the crowd going.
It saw Dylan and Simon use their sketched setlist to devastating effect as they dueted on a medley of ‘I Walk The Line’ and ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’, after ‘Forever Young’ was dropped following the first night. Every so often the duo would throw in retro gems ‘That’ll Be The Day’ and ‘The Wanderer’. But the standout moment was their duet of Simon’s 1965 hit ‘The Sound of Silence’.
The clip below comes from their performance of the track in Portland, Oregon on June 12th and sees Bob Dylan and Paul Simon showing why they were legends then, back in 1999, and still are to this day.
Listen a timeless moment as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon share the stage to sing ‘The Sound of Silence’