In the 1960s and 70’s teens were obsessed with The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Who, and The Rolling Stones. These musicians were cultural touchstones. Their lyrics had an impact on the world opposed to the three minute singles that flood our radio stations, just for the sake of having their few minutes of fame. There is no doubt in my mind that almost all of you are going to disagree with me.
Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman; May 24, 1941 and is an American singer-songwriter and musician. He has been a major figure in popular music for five decades. Bob Dylan was the single most influential musician of the 1960s. He started the fire. He turned music into a form of mass communication. He galvanized a generation through folk songs that became anthems. The entire world of rock music followed his every step. When Dylan went electric, everybody went electric. When Dylan went country, everybody went country. His legacy is monumental.
A number of his songs became anthems for civil rights and anti-war movements. His early lyrics incorporated a variety of political, social, and philosophical, as well as literary influences. “Blowin’ In The Wind” created the epitome of the finger-pointing protest song. The Times They Are A-Changin’ (CBS, 1963), took advantage of the cultural transition, of the times that were indeed changing. Dylan’s world, however, was not just a world of sociopolitical conflicts. Every folk singer’s a hero when he stands against the Establishment, but Dylan’s literary talent gave him a whole different aura. He reached deeper than anyone ever did into the souls of the young protesters.
Dylan wrote unusually refined lyrics. He was more of a surrealistic poet than a folk singer; his lyrics built literary bridges between metaphysical visions and the ferocious sociopolitical reality, to express the yearning and the anguish of his generation. Blonde On Blonde (1966), the first double-LP album ever, remains one of rock’s all-time masterpieces which changed the landscape of rock music. This album was a milestone of the twentieth century; one of the greatest cultural divides of the times. This album closed an era and began another. After Blonde On Blonde rock music would no longer be an underground phenomenon or a commercial enterprise, it would be an art form. Dylan has explored numerous distinct traditions in American song — from folk, blues and country. Dylan added increasingly sophisticated lyrical techniques to the folk music of the early 60s “. Paul Simon suggested that Dylan’s early compositions virtually took over the folk genre and that he defined the genre for a while.
Dylan’s influence has been felt in several musical genres. As Edna Gundersen stated in USA Today: “Dylan’s musical DNA has informed nearly every simple twist of pop since 1962.” One of the pivotal moments in Dylan’s career has been the era of “going electric”. He lost a lot of fans because of his move. Dylan was booed by his audience when he embraced electric instruments, because in those years an electric guitar was an emblem of commercial music. The thing that bewildered me was that he didn’t care that he lost his loyal fans. He followed his heart as an artist and did what he did best. This is an element which I believe should be central to the psyche of a musician in the contemporary realm.
Bob Dylan has been described as one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, musically and culturally. Dylan was included in the Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century where he was called “master poet, caustic social critic and intrepid, guiding spirit of the counterculture generation”. The Pulitzer Prize jury in 2008 awarded him a special citation for what they called his profound impact on popular music and American culture, “marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”
Howard Sounes, the biographer of Bob Dylan, placed him among the most exalted company when he said, “There are giant figures in art who are sublimely good — Mozart, Picasso, Frank Lloyd Wright, Shakespeare, Dickens. Dylan ranks alongside these artists.” A mythical aura surrounded Dylan’s life. His popularity was immense, not only in the United States. The measure of his popularity should not be measured by the ten million records he sold, but by the 150 covers of his songs by others, a record never again repeated. This is something in which proves the fact that Dylan was like no other. Can you imagine 150 covers of “In My Head” by Jayson Derulo? This is the depletion of song quality in the 21st century- something Mr. Zimmerman would strongly be against.
To conclude, I see Bob Dylan as a poet, an artist, and a prophet. The reason he is so good is because of the heavy influence of poetry in his music. Like a lot of folk music it is weighted towards presenting the lyrics in the song as the forefront rather than pushing them aside in favour of heavy guitar etc. You only really have to juxtapose him against any popular hip-hop music to understand how the lyrics are interchangeable and nonsense, and really if you’re not listening to the artist trying to tell you something then what is the point of listening?
This is me, tangled up in blue…