Category:  Other

By:  buzz-of-the-orient  •  3 weeks ago  •  28 comments


PHOTO CAPTION: Sanford D. Greenberg (left) and Art Garfunkel. (EndBlindnessby2020.com)

Google “Sandy Greenberg” to read more of his incredible story.


College roommate who went blind reveals the untold story

IT is one of the best-loved songs of all time. Simon & Garfunkel's hit The Sound Of Silence topped the US charts and went platinum in the UK.

It was named among the 20 most performed songs of the 20th century, included in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and provided the unforgettable soundtrack to 1967 film classic The Graduate. But to one man The Sound Of Silence means much more than just a No 1 song on the radio with its poignant opening lines: "Hello Darkness my old friend, I've come to talk with you again."

Sanford "Sandy" Greenberg is Art Garfunkel's best friend, and reveals in a moving new memoir, named after that lyric, that the song was a touching tribute to their undying bond, and the singer's sacrifice that saved Sandy's life when he unexpectedly lost his sight.

"He lifted me out of the grave," says Sandy, aged 79, who recounts his plunge into sudden blindness, and how Art Garfunkel's selfless devotion gave him reason to live again.

Sandy and Arthur, as Art was then known, met during their first week as students at the prestigious Columbia University in New York.

"A young man wearing an Argyle sweater and corduroy pants and blond hair with a crew cut came over and said, 'Hi, I'm Arthur Garfunkel'," Sandy recalls.

They became roommates, bonding over a shared taste in books, poetry and music.

"Every night Arthur and I would sing. He would play his guitar and I would be the DJ. The air was always filled with music."

"Still teenagers, they made a pact to always be there for each other in times of trouble.

"If one was in extremis, the other would come to his rescue," says Sandy.

They had no idea their promise would be tested so soon. Just months later, Sandy recalls: "I was at a baseball game and suddenly my eyes became cloudy and my vision became unhinged. Shortly after that darkness descended."

Doctors diagnosed conjunctivitis, assuring it would pass. But days later Sandy went blind, and doctors realised that glaucoma had destroyed his optic nerves.

Sandy was the son of a rag-and-bone man. His family, Jewish immigrants in Buffalo, New York, had no money to help him, so he dropped out of college, gave up his dream of becoming a lawyer, and plunged into depression.

"I wouldn't see anyone, I just refused to talk to anybody," says Sandy. "And then unexpectedly Arthur flew in, saying he had to talk to me. He said, 'You're gonna come back, aren't you?' "I said,: 'No. There's no conceivable way.'

"He was pretty insistent, and finally said, 'Look, I don't think you get it. I need you back there.That's the pact we made together: we would be there for the other in times of crises. I will help you'."

Together they returned to Columbia University, where Sandy became dependent on Garfunkel's support. Art would walk Sandy to class, bandage his wounds when he fell, and even filled out his graduate school applications.

Garfunkel called himself "Darkness" in a show of empathy. The singer explained: "I was saying, 'I want to be together where you are, in the black'."

Sandy recalls: "He would come in and say, 'Darkness is going to read to you now.'

“Then he would take me to class and back. He would take me around the city. He altered his entire life so that it would accommodate me."

Garfunkel would talk about Sandy with his high-school friend Paul Simon, from Queens, New York, as the folk rock duo struggled to launch their musical careers, performing at local parties and clubs.

Though Simon wrote the song, the lyrics to The Sound of Silence are infused with Garfunkel's compassion as Darkness, Sandy's old friend.

Guiding Sandy through New York one day, as they stood in the vast forecourt of bustling Grand Central Station, Garfunkel said that he had to leave for an assignment, abandoning his blind friend alone in the rush-hour crowd, terrified, stumbling and falling. "I cut my forehead" says Sandy.

"I cut my shins. My socks were bloodied. I had my hands out and bumped into a woman's breasts. It was a horrendous feeling of shame and humiliation.

"I started running forward, knocking over coffee cups and briefcases, and finally I got to the local train to Columbia University. It was the worst couple of hours in my life."

Back on campus, he bumped into a man, who apologised.

"I knew that it was Arthur's voice," says Sandy. "For a moment I was enraged, and then I understood what happened: that his colossally insightful, brilliant yet wildly risky strategy had worked."

Garfunkel had not abandoned Sandy at the station, but had followed him the entire way home, watching over him.

  1. "Arthur knew it was only when I could prove to myself I could do it that I would have real independence," says Sandy. "And it worked, because after that I felt that I could do anything.

"That moment was the spark that caused me to live a completely different life, without fear, without doubt. For that I am tremendously grateful to my friend."

Sandy not only graduated, but went on to study for a master's degree at Harvard and Oxford.

While in Britain he received a phone call from his friend - and with it the chance to keep his side of their pact.

Garfunkel wanted to drop out of architecture school and record his first album with Paul Simon, but explained: "I need $400 to get started."

Sandy, by then married to his high school sweetheart, says: "We had $404 in our current account. I said, 'Arthur, you will have your cheque.' "It was an instant reaction, because he had helped me restart my life, and his request was the first time that I had been able to live up to my half of our solemn covenant."

The 1964 album, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, was a critical and commercial flop, but one of the tracks was The Sound Of Silence, which was released as a single the following year and went to No 1 across the world.

"The Sound Of Silence meant a lot, because it started out with the words 'Hello darkness' and this was Darkness singing, the guy who read to me after I returned to Columbia blind," says Sandy.

Simon & Garfunkel went on to have four smash albums, with hits including Mrs Robinson, The Boxer, and Bridge Over Troubled Waters.

Amazingly, Sandy went on to extraordinary success as an inventor, entrepreneur, investor, presidential adviser and philanthropist. The father of three, who launched a $3million prize to find a cure for blindness, has always refused to use a white cane or guide dog.

"I don't want to be 'the blind guy'," he says. "I wanted to be Sandy Greenberg, the human being."

Six decades later the two men remain best friends, and Garfunkel credits Sandy with transforming his life.

With Sandy, "my real life emerged," says the singer. "I became a better guy in my own eyes, and began to see who I was - somebody who gives to a friend.

"I blush to find myself within his dimension. My friend is the gold standard of decency."

Says Sandy: "I am the luckiest man in the world."


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Buzz of the Orient
1  author  Buzz of the Orient    3 weeks ago

This was emailed to me by an old school roommate of mine so I can't specify a source and I took the photo of Greenberg and Garfunkel from a relevant article on the intenet. 

https://video.tudou.com/v/XNzE4MzI5OTQw.html?spm=a2h0k.8191414.0.0&from=s1.8-1-1 .2

Comments about politics or religion are off topic and will be deleted. 

Dismayed Patriot
1.1  Dismayed Patriot  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    3 weeks ago

Amazing story. I've always loved that song and knowing its origin adds a whole new depth to it. I admit I teared up a bit reading this. Both are truly the "gold standard of decency" and what we should all be striving for. Thank you for sharing Buzz.

1.1.1  TTGA  replied to  Dismayed Patriot @1.1    3 weeks ago

DP, I don't think I could add anything.  You pretty much said it all, and did it very well indeed.

Great story Buzz.

2  Kavika     3 weeks ago

What a wonderful story. It gives a whole new meaning to the song, one that, IMO, it richly deserves. 

Kudos to two life long friends that showed us what the word friends really means.

Great article Buzz.

2.1  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  Kavika @2    2 weeks ago

You are certainly correct, and my thanks to Buzz as well. It is nice to finally learn the meaning behind such poignant lyrics. Ironically, without knowing the original relevance, the lyrics are just as relevant today as they were all those years ago when it was originally released.

3  MonsterMash    3 weeks ago

A beautiful story of true friendship.

4  sandy-2021492    3 weeks ago

What a wonderful friendship.

Bob Nelson
5  Bob Nelson    3 weeks ago

Beautiful story. I think I know almost all Paul Simon lyrics by heart, but Sounds of Silence is special among specials. 

MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
6  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)    3 weeks ago

Great story.

I have a handful of friends like this and I try to be that friend to others. One of two of my best friends needed someone to drive her to Ohio to pick up her son from his dad in a blizzard; she had a front wheel drive vehicle and I had a Jeep Wrangler... I took her that night even though I had just showered and was ready for bed and had to get up really early. When I left my abusive first husband, a long time friend helped me pack up while my ex was still at work and then once in my new home, another long time friend helped me get everything put away to make it feel more like a home. When my second best friend needed help with Christmas presents for her kids, I loaned her the money; she and I are on opposite pay schedules, so when I needed the money, she was able to give it back. I'm generally someone that if a friend or family needs money, I don't expect them to pay me back, but that was a time that money was tight for both families, so we just kept helping each other. My uncle lived with us for two years rent free; he did things around the house to "earn" his stay or would babysit my son when I needed him. I remember all the nice things that people have done for me and paying it forward is important to me. I've given homeless men and women food, water and blankets; while I can't give them a place to stay, I will crochet a blanket for them.

I guess this is part of why I love the Wiccan Rede, "If it harms none, do as you will." I'm a big believer in Karma. My neighbors need help all the time and the biggest need recently came from my 96 year old neighbor who's at the end of her time here on Earth; her 66 year old daughter needed help while the nurse was on vacation. So, my daughter and I helped. They keep going on and on about how grateful they are for our help, but to me, after 13 years, they're family and there's no need to thank us. I simply don't get why people just can't be nice to their fellow human.

Trout Giggles
7  Trout Giggles    3 weeks ago

Thanks for the story, Buzz. I got to know this song in high school when we sang it in chorus. The harmony is what moved me.

MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
8  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)    3 weeks ago

Have you seen / heard the Disturbed version of this song? For a heavy metal band, they did a BEAUTIFUL rendition of it. They absolutely did it justice.

Bob Nelson
8.1  Bob Nelson  replied to  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka) @8    3 weeks ago

Very nice 

MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
8.1.1  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)  replied to  Bob Nelson @8.1    3 weeks ago

Disturbed played that song on Conan too.

Buzz of the Orient
8.2  author  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka) @8    2 weeks ago

I was able to watch that video here:

https://video.tudou.com/v/XMTUzMzkyMDcyMA==.html?spm=a2h0k.8191414.0.0&from=s1.8-1-1 .2

Very dramatic.  Near the end it actually made me shiver. 

MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
8.2.1  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @8.2    2 weeks ago

Right! And you can hear the "metal" in David Draiman's voice towards the end too (at 2:56 and 3:19), which gave it a little something extra I think. Gives me chills too.

Paula Bartholomew
9  Paula Bartholomew    2 weeks ago

I date a guy in college who was a dead ringer for Paul Simon.  He ended up being the best man at my wedding.

Bob Nelson
9.1  Bob Nelson  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @9    2 weeks ago

Good singer? 

Paula Bartholomew
9.1.1  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Bob Nelson @9.1    2 weeks ago

Nah.  He was into the study of insects.  He could not carry a tune if it had a handle.  But I loved him to bits.

Bob Nelson
9.1.2  Bob Nelson  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @9.1.1    2 weeks ago



Paula Bartholomew
9.1.3  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Bob Nelson @9.1.2    2 weeks ago

He loved entomology but I hated it when he did his homework in my apartment.

Bob Nelson
9.1.4  Bob Nelson  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @9.1.3    2 weeks ago

He brought... his...homework? ... ... ick!

Paula Bartholomew
9.1.5  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Bob Nelson @9.1.4    2 weeks ago

Yep lol.  I always made him take a head count before he left.

Bob Nelson
9.1.6  Bob Nelson  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @9.1.5    2 weeks ago


10  Kathleen    2 weeks ago

Nice story Buzz, love the song too.

11  Gsquared    2 weeks ago

Great song.  It's nice to know the backstory about the lyrics.  I often wondered.

11.1  devangelical  replied to  Gsquared @11    2 weeks ago

me too. it definitely changed my impression of art garfunkel.

11.1.1  Gsquared  replied to  devangelical @11.1    2 weeks ago

My main impression has always been that he has an angelic voice.

Buzz of the Orient
12  author  Buzz of the Orient    one week ago

As the story says, it became a hit around the world, and just now as I was sitting here on my computer I heard it being played on the radio that my wife is listening to - I know that that song is loved here in China.  


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