Even though books such as Lee Andresen's 'Battle Notes…Music of the Vietnam War' list more than a half-dozen Simon & Garfunkel songs as being war-related, the folk duo cannot be characterized as protest singers. Neither Paul Simon's lyrics nor the pair's concerts were overtly political. When the Vietnam War cropped up it could be embedded in a news broadcast [as in 7 O'clock News/Silent Night], directly implied through name dropping [A Simple Desultory Philippic], or left to inference by the listener [Side Of The Hill from the 1965 LP 'The Paul Simon Songbook,' a UK release].
Both 7 O'clock News and ASimple Desultory Philippic are from 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.' The album went triple platinum, spent almost three years among 'Billboard's' Top 200 LPs and produced three hit singles (though not these two songs).
The news broadcast heard behind the strains of Silent Night would have had to air on August 3, 1966. The date can be pinpointed by the reference to comedian Lenny Bruce's death. Richard Nixon's quote, that "opposition to the war in this country is the greatest single weapon working against the United States," is permitted to pass with no comment. ASimple Desultory Philippic is the song's second version, Paul having recorded the first solo while in London. It is sometimes referred to with a subtitle: (Or How I Was Robert McNamara'd Into Submission). The Secretary of Defense is one of three Vietnam principals mentioned in the song. The other two are the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, Maxwell Taylor and singer Barry Sadler. To find the connection in Side Of The Hill one need only substitute Vietnam for Simon's "a land called somewhere."
Paul Simon was born on October 13, 1941 in Newark, New Jersey; Art Garfunkel on November 5, 1941 in Forest Hills, New York. The two met in high school and initially recorded as Everly Brothers sound-alikes, Tom & Jerry. Starting with 1965s The Sound Of Silence they were America's best-selling duo for the next six years. They had three #1 singles, three #1 albums and sold in excess of 20 million records. In addition to being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, they received Grammy's "Lifetime Achievement Award" in 2003.