Happy 70th Birthday, Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan turns 70 today.   I’ve been listening to his tunes lately, and they are as good as ever, if not better.  So, my fellow Baby Boomers, now that Dylan is 70, will you now admit that you aren’t young any more?

Notice I am not using a headline that alludes to “Forever Young.”  That’s about the only Dylan song that I find annoying, since it assumes that being young is better than being old, a notion I dispute.  (Do you fellow aging baby boomers now agree?)

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” Wow – Dylan turning 70! You’re right, though – he’s like a fine wine. Not enough superlatives. He has for many years admirably fulfilled the vocation of rock star.

    I think you’re also right about the getting older thing. Most things in life (as long as they don’t involve standing for long periods or require accurate short-term memory) get better with age.

  • Pete

    “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” Wow – Dylan turning 70! You’re right, though – he’s like a fine wine. Not enough superlatives. He has for many years admirably fulfilled the vocation of rock star.

    I think you’re also right about the getting older thing. Most things in life (as long as they don’t involve standing for long periods or require accurate short-term memory) get better with age.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I have to be frank: I’d rather hear other people do Dylan’s music. Congrats to the man for his writing, but I prefer hearing Jimi Hendrix do “All along the Watchtower” or GnR doing “Knocking on Heaven’s door.”

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I have to be frank: I’d rather hear other people do Dylan’s music. Congrats to the man for his writing, but I prefer hearing Jimi Hendrix do “All along the Watchtower” or GnR doing “Knocking on Heaven’s door.”

  • SKPeterson

    Boomers and their generational narcissism. ;)

  • SKPeterson

    Boomers and their generational narcissism. ;)

  • Dennis Peskey

    I appreciate SKPeterson’s rebuke of “generational narcissism” and regret (and repent) of the same. Yet, lest I further compound my erring ways, I do believe Mr. Dylan’s music will outlive all of us which also serves as a confession to being nolonger (or forever) young. I would add the admonition (all rapture considerations aside) that a day is forthcoming when I shall be and remain forever young with my Lord but today is not that day. I do lament the passing of our blossom as the lilies of the field but I do not desire a return to the past half century (or more, in my instance). We now are firmly in the withering stages of life and it will be the task of today’s youth to reap whatever good we proferred and benefit from this with a note of caution that all the seeds we planted were not equally beneficial. But you do have the advantage of writing our history; enjoy the challenge.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    I appreciate SKPeterson’s rebuke of “generational narcissism” and regret (and repent) of the same. Yet, lest I further compound my erring ways, I do believe Mr. Dylan’s music will outlive all of us which also serves as a confession to being nolonger (or forever) young. I would add the admonition (all rapture considerations aside) that a day is forthcoming when I shall be and remain forever young with my Lord but today is not that day. I do lament the passing of our blossom as the lilies of the field but I do not desire a return to the past half century (or more, in my instance). We now are firmly in the withering stages of life and it will be the task of today’s youth to reap whatever good we proferred and benefit from this with a note of caution that all the seeds we planted were not equally beneficial. But you do have the advantage of writing our history; enjoy the challenge.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    As to my fellow Boomer and Minnesotan, Bob Dylan… meh. Never cared for his stuff.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    As to my fellow Boomer and Minnesotan, Bob Dylan… meh. Never cared for his stuff.

  • Booklover

    I’m with Lars. We vocal coaches preach against precisely that type of vocal production. But I’m guessing maybe it’s his words and not his voice that are meaningful? Or maybe the “uniqueness” of his voice? Perhaps I’m slightly too young to appreciate him. :-)

  • Booklover

    I’m with Lars. We vocal coaches preach against precisely that type of vocal production. But I’m guessing maybe it’s his words and not his voice that are meaningful? Or maybe the “uniqueness” of his voice? Perhaps I’m slightly too young to appreciate him. :-)

  • Booklover

    Getting older is a good thing, except for the lowered fitness level. Some grandchildren would boost the benefits of being older, too. :-)

  • Booklover

    Getting older is a good thing, except for the lowered fitness level. Some grandchildren would boost the benefits of being older, too. :-)

  • Tom Hering

    It’s good to make the best of getting older, but it’s not better than being young. As more and more things go wrong with your body, you can’t do some of the things you used to do. Even simple things, like going for a walk. And as you age, more and more of your friends and loved ones die, and you live with an increasing sense of loss and loneliness. Aging is the process of dying. Death is a curse.

    Other than that, I’m a happy old guy. :-)

  • Tom Hering

    It’s good to make the best of getting older, but it’s not better than being young. As more and more things go wrong with your body, you can’t do some of the things you used to do. Even simple things, like going for a walk. And as you age, more and more of your friends and loved ones die, and you live with an increasing sense of loss and loneliness. Aging is the process of dying. Death is a curse.

    Other than that, I’m a happy old guy. :-)

  • Joe

    Dennis @ 4 – ” I do believe Mr. Dylan’s music will outlive all of us …” Of course you do, your a boomer so your music will live on forever. :)

  • Joe

    Dennis @ 4 – ” I do believe Mr. Dylan’s music will outlive all of us …” Of course you do, your a boomer so your music will live on forever. :)

  • Dennis Peskey

    Joe – guilty as charged; but I neither recant nor modify my prediction concerning Bob Dylan’s contribution to the musical legacy.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Joe – guilty as charged; but I neither recant nor modify my prediction concerning Bob Dylan’s contribution to the musical legacy.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • helen

    What is considered to be the end of the “Boomer” generation?

  • helen

    What is considered to be the end of the “Boomer” generation?

  • kerner

    Lars @5:

    National Lampoon did a comic book satire of the life of Bob Dylan called “the Ventures of Zimmerman”. Some of it was dirty, so I only reproduced one page that seems to capture your reaction.

    http://www.punkhart.com/dylan/images/zimmerman-pg02.gif

  • kerner

    Lars @5:

    National Lampoon did a comic book satire of the life of Bob Dylan called “the Ventures of Zimmerman”. Some of it was dirty, so I only reproduced one page that seems to capture your reaction.

    http://www.punkhart.com/dylan/images/zimmerman-pg02.gif

  • BIGGIE BIGGS

    I don’t get why this guy’s waffling voice was so great amongst the generation before me. But then again, I am not sure why anyone likes pop music even in my own.

  • BIGGIE BIGGS

    I don’t get why this guy’s waffling voice was so great amongst the generation before me. But then again, I am not sure why anyone likes pop music even in my own.

  • katy

    A Millenial (Gen Y? I’m not sure what I am…born in ’83) response:

    1. I like Bob Dylan. Boomers do not have a monopoly on him (or any of their generation’s music, unless it’s Pat Boone or John Denver or the Carpenters. Not many of my friends listen to them :) But any number of Pop/Country/Folk/Rock/Punk bands/singers, famous or obscure they will recognize, and often like. People who like popular music, regardless of their age, usually have a fairly good grasp–or at least awareness–of the quality pop that has withstood “time” (the last 60 years, not “all time”). It’s people who listen to the radio just to hear general music that just hear their own generation’s music. (Adult Contemp. stations are now playing stuff from my high school years, instead of the 80′s/early 90′s I remember hearing while in the dentist chair)

    2. I understand why people don’t like Dylan and/or find him extremely overrated. I do sometimes myself roll my eyes at the hyperbole critics use to describe Dylan and/or his talents. I have been to one of his concerts, and I probably won’t go again (not terrible, just not worth the money). I like to think Dylan finds it humorous, too, but I don’t know him. Maybe he is an egomaniac. All I know is, listening to Blonde on Blonde when I was 18 opened me up to about 8 other genres of music I never would have liked before (and listening to Nashville Skyline convinced my husband to consider country music–from there he tried Johnny Cash, and now I have him going to Doc Watson concerts :)

    3. @ Booklover: Grandchildren are a joy of the aged. So any other married GenYers out there waiting for the perfect circumstances to have kids should just go for it–the perfect circumstances may not arrive in time. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have my three (soon four) children know all their 50-something grandparents, and two of their great-grandparents. (Of course, I speaking to those who could have kids, not to those whose circumstances really are out of their control.) Kids need grandparents and other extended family, not a mortgage :)

    4. @Biggie Biggs: We don’t let our kids hear anything but live music (as in: we and they sing it together around the piano or guitar, or as we work, or we sing hymns in church), and recorded hymns and classical. Oh, and some Bible verses and catechism set to music that cph.org puts out. So I’m with you, in a sense.

  • katy

    A Millenial (Gen Y? I’m not sure what I am…born in ’83) response:

    1. I like Bob Dylan. Boomers do not have a monopoly on him (or any of their generation’s music, unless it’s Pat Boone or John Denver or the Carpenters. Not many of my friends listen to them :) But any number of Pop/Country/Folk/Rock/Punk bands/singers, famous or obscure they will recognize, and often like. People who like popular music, regardless of their age, usually have a fairly good grasp–or at least awareness–of the quality pop that has withstood “time” (the last 60 years, not “all time”). It’s people who listen to the radio just to hear general music that just hear their own generation’s music. (Adult Contemp. stations are now playing stuff from my high school years, instead of the 80′s/early 90′s I remember hearing while in the dentist chair)

    2. I understand why people don’t like Dylan and/or find him extremely overrated. I do sometimes myself roll my eyes at the hyperbole critics use to describe Dylan and/or his talents. I have been to one of his concerts, and I probably won’t go again (not terrible, just not worth the money). I like to think Dylan finds it humorous, too, but I don’t know him. Maybe he is an egomaniac. All I know is, listening to Blonde on Blonde when I was 18 opened me up to about 8 other genres of music I never would have liked before (and listening to Nashville Skyline convinced my husband to consider country music–from there he tried Johnny Cash, and now I have him going to Doc Watson concerts :)

    3. @ Booklover: Grandchildren are a joy of the aged. So any other married GenYers out there waiting for the perfect circumstances to have kids should just go for it–the perfect circumstances may not arrive in time. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have my three (soon four) children know all their 50-something grandparents, and two of their great-grandparents. (Of course, I speaking to those who could have kids, not to those whose circumstances really are out of their control.) Kids need grandparents and other extended family, not a mortgage :)

    4. @Biggie Biggs: We don’t let our kids hear anything but live music (as in: we and they sing it together around the piano or guitar, or as we work, or we sing hymns in church), and recorded hymns and classical. Oh, and some Bible verses and catechism set to music that cph.org puts out. So I’m with you, in a sense.

  • Jonathan

    Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” surely is his most haunting composition. The song and the true story behind it says much about white American privilege. Also, his “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” could have been written today about the Tea Party.

  • Jonathan

    Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” surely is his most haunting composition. The song and the true story behind it says much about white American privilege. Also, his “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” could have been written today about the Tea Party.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dr. Veith! You are the highbrow culture critic! How can you listen to this dreck? ;)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dr. Veith! You are the highbrow culture critic! How can you listen to this dreck? ;)

  • Pete

    @14, Katy has it right: Dylan is not the sole property of the boomers (though I is one.) While I was never able to get my parents (greatest generation) to profess enjoyment of Dylan (they did listen patiently to John Wesley Harding and me waxing interpretive on the biblical allusions in “The Wicked Messenger”) my daughter (gen-x, but perceptive nonetheless) is a big fan. The highlight of my 50th birthday was she and I hearing Bob at the Aragon Theater in Chicago. The audience was predominantly middle-aged but the upper and lower registers were well-represented as well.
    His voice is an issue, as has been pointed out. It was bad (by any reasonable standard) when he was young and has gotten worse with age. But it’s part of his schtick and is clearly an acquired taste. I disagree with the sentiment expressed above that others do a better job with his content than he does.

  • Pete

    @14, Katy has it right: Dylan is not the sole property of the boomers (though I is one.) While I was never able to get my parents (greatest generation) to profess enjoyment of Dylan (they did listen patiently to John Wesley Harding and me waxing interpretive on the biblical allusions in “The Wicked Messenger”) my daughter (gen-x, but perceptive nonetheless) is a big fan. The highlight of my 50th birthday was she and I hearing Bob at the Aragon Theater in Chicago. The audience was predominantly middle-aged but the upper and lower registers were well-represented as well.
    His voice is an issue, as has been pointed out. It was bad (by any reasonable standard) when he was young and has gotten worse with age. But it’s part of his schtick and is clearly an acquired taste. I disagree with the sentiment expressed above that others do a better job with his content than he does.

  • Chris

    @Jonothan,
    I completely agree about “Hattie Carroll.” It is my all time favorite Dylan song.

    @Biggie (#13),
    While I’ve always liked Dylan’s voice, I can certainly understand why some (many?) don’t find it appealling. The man however is undeniably one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, songwriters the world has ever known. He had a gift. I am continually amazed how so many of his “old” songs are still so relevant today.

  • Chris

    @Jonothan,
    I completely agree about “Hattie Carroll.” It is my all time favorite Dylan song.

    @Biggie (#13),
    While I’ve always liked Dylan’s voice, I can certainly understand why some (many?) don’t find it appealling. The man however is undeniably one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, songwriters the world has ever known. He had a gift. I am continually amazed how so many of his “old” songs are still so relevant today.

  • katy

    @Chris
    “THE greatest, songwriters the world has ever known.”

    I doubt that. Part of his appeal is drawing on lots of better writers before him (whom his listeners are unfamiliar with), and packaging it for us 20th/21st century pop-music listeners. I’m pretty sure David and Homer have him beat by a few thousand years. I don’t think Dylan’s songs have the staying-power of Greensleeves or Veni, Veni Immanuel, or an number of other hymns, or even a few 19th century ballads and folk songs. I don’t even think he’s beat Stephen Foster, yet.

    Not denying his talent, just not buying the “ever” and “world” part. One of the best popular (let’s not forget all those unknowns who are too busy not being rockstars who may be better songwriters), Western (maybe just Anglo–I don’t know what Western Europeans think of him) songwriters? I’ll concede that.

  • katy

    @Chris
    “THE greatest, songwriters the world has ever known.”

    I doubt that. Part of his appeal is drawing on lots of better writers before him (whom his listeners are unfamiliar with), and packaging it for us 20th/21st century pop-music listeners. I’m pretty sure David and Homer have him beat by a few thousand years. I don’t think Dylan’s songs have the staying-power of Greensleeves or Veni, Veni Immanuel, or an number of other hymns, or even a few 19th century ballads and folk songs. I don’t even think he’s beat Stephen Foster, yet.

    Not denying his talent, just not buying the “ever” and “world” part. One of the best popular (let’s not forget all those unknowns who are too busy not being rockstars who may be better songwriters), Western (maybe just Anglo–I don’t know what Western Europeans think of him) songwriters? I’ll concede that.

  • Louis

    There are/were songwriters in other cultures that excelled at the same genres – what about Jacques Brel (Belgian), Koos du Plessis (South African) and Frida Boccara (French)? I’d encourage folks to listen to these fine artists in addition to Dylan.

  • Louis

    There are/were songwriters in other cultures that excelled at the same genres – what about Jacques Brel (Belgian), Koos du Plessis (South African) and Frida Boccara (French)? I’d encourage folks to listen to these fine artists in addition to Dylan.

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    I remember my college English prof back in the seventies citing Dylan’s poetry as a demonstration of the power of language. His wordsmithing trumped his singing and playing abilities.

    BTW anyone here know were he borrowed his singing style? Checkout

    Some have accused Elliot of copying Dylan. I’ve been informed that it was the other way around.

    Also, for all Dylan haters, don’t think twice, it’s alright.

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    I remember my college English prof back in the seventies citing Dylan’s poetry as a demonstration of the power of language. His wordsmithing trumped his singing and playing abilities.

    BTW anyone here know were he borrowed his singing style? Checkout

    Some have accused Elliot of copying Dylan. I’ve been informed that it was the other way around.

    Also, for all Dylan haters, don’t think twice, it’s alright.

  • BIGGIE BIGGS

    I always imagined that David was the best songwriter but alas I am may be wrong

  • BIGGIE BIGGS

    I always imagined that David was the best songwriter but alas I am may be wrong

  • Chris

    Okay, okay….my statement was a bit of hyperbole. I’m not trying to compare Bob Dylan to King David or Homer. I will agree with Katy that I should have called him one of the greatest popular American songwriters. I’m sure there are many talented songwriters from other cultures as well with whom I am not familiar. Didn’t mean to offend anyone. :-)

  • Chris

    Okay, okay….my statement was a bit of hyperbole. I’m not trying to compare Bob Dylan to King David or Homer. I will agree with Katy that I should have called him one of the greatest popular American songwriters. I’m sure there are many talented songwriters from other cultures as well with whom I am not familiar. Didn’t mean to offend anyone. :-)

  • helen

    Booklover @ 7
    Some grandchildren would boost the benefits of being older, too.

    Once upon a time I thought, if I get through the diapers, the sleepless nights and the mumps, German measles and chicken pox (all in five months) the kids would grow up into human beings able to carry on an intelligent conversation.
    And they did. Other people told me so.

    I have five grandchildren I know even less about.

    Hang on to your books; I’m glad of the ones I’ve been able to keep! (But you might start buying them with larger type.) :)

    I should add that other people’s children are my present joy.
    Funny how that works.

  • helen

    Booklover @ 7
    Some grandchildren would boost the benefits of being older, too.

    Once upon a time I thought, if I get through the diapers, the sleepless nights and the mumps, German measles and chicken pox (all in five months) the kids would grow up into human beings able to carry on an intelligent conversation.
    And they did. Other people told me so.

    I have five grandchildren I know even less about.

    Hang on to your books; I’m glad of the ones I’ve been able to keep! (But you might start buying them with larger type.) :)

    I should add that other people’s children are my present joy.
    Funny how that works.

  • Jimmy Veith

    I love the phrase: “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

    Bob Dylan was 23 when he wrote “Forever Young”. Now that he is really, really older then, is he now really, really younger now? Has he even been born yet? (Sorry, I’m just freaking out on Dylan.)

    Peace.

  • Jimmy Veith

    I love the phrase: “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

    Bob Dylan was 23 when he wrote “Forever Young”. Now that he is really, really older then, is he now really, really younger now? Has he even been born yet? (Sorry, I’m just freaking out on Dylan.)

    Peace.

  • Pete

    Jimmy Veith @25: “He not busy being born is a-busy dying.”

  • Pete

    Jimmy Veith @25: “He not busy being born is a-busy dying.”

  • Cincinnatus

    I’m with J. Dean (up @3) on this one: Bob Dylan wrote some good lyrics (though I’m not convinced that they’ll “outlive all of us”; they don’t hold a candle to much other poetry that has outlived its own epoch; popular music, in addition, almost always has a significantly shortened half-life), but man oh man–that guy cannot sing–at all. I realize gravelly voices are par for the course in folk music, but Dylan’s voice is much worse than the quaint gravel I expect in good folksy troubadourship. I listen to some of his songs –because, as others have noted, he is often a worthy lyricist who can, furthermore, match his words to a catchy tune.

    But I’ll take Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” over Dylan’s any day. I’ve heard that, having heard Hendrix perform his cover, Dylan himself admitted the same thing. Now if only someone would release a plausible cover of “The Times, They Are’a Changin’”

    Speaking of that little ditty, I’m positively mystified about Dylan’s popularity–nay, near godlike artistic status–among certain Christians and conservatives. His early stuff in particular (e.g., the aforementioned song) is a clarion call to social revolution and adolescent rebellions–the stuff that made the 1960s positively awful. He’s not the sort of folk musician conservatives should be exalting when they seek to preserve the rich tapestry of traditional music that also embodies concrete, textured ways-of-being and folkways.

  • Cincinnatus

    I’m with J. Dean (up @3) on this one: Bob Dylan wrote some good lyrics (though I’m not convinced that they’ll “outlive all of us”; they don’t hold a candle to much other poetry that has outlived its own epoch; popular music, in addition, almost always has a significantly shortened half-life), but man oh man–that guy cannot sing–at all. I realize gravelly voices are par for the course in folk music, but Dylan’s voice is much worse than the quaint gravel I expect in good folksy troubadourship. I listen to some of his songs –because, as others have noted, he is often a worthy lyricist who can, furthermore, match his words to a catchy tune.

    But I’ll take Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” over Dylan’s any day. I’ve heard that, having heard Hendrix perform his cover, Dylan himself admitted the same thing. Now if only someone would release a plausible cover of “The Times, They Are’a Changin’”

    Speaking of that little ditty, I’m positively mystified about Dylan’s popularity–nay, near godlike artistic status–among certain Christians and conservatives. His early stuff in particular (e.g., the aforementioned song) is a clarion call to social revolution and adolescent rebellions–the stuff that made the 1960s positively awful. He’s not the sort of folk musician conservatives should be exalting when they seek to preserve the rich tapestry of traditional music that also embodies concrete, textured ways-of-being and folkways.

  • Pete

    Dying, being born, justice/injustice (vis a vis Hattie Carroll), love, hate, man and God and law… One of the things that has been most remarkable about Dylan through the years is his persistent nosing around the big issues. Almost undetectable drivel levels in his output. So when, in “Isis” (album: Desire), he comes to a “high place of darkness and light” where the “dividing line ran through the center of town” and he “hitched up his pony to a post on the right” and “went into the laundry to wash my clothes down”, met a shadowy guy who was “not ordinary” and who led him on a journey that ends at an empty tomb… well, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Bob’s giving one of the world’s great monotheistic religions the ol’ once over. And not long thereafter announces as much. It’s just SO much fun to brew up a pot of coffee and sit down with another dylanophile or two, throw the latest platter on the turntable and figure out what in the world he’s saying. Figure who’s the speaker in a given song. I think it’s Death in “Moonlight” (album: Love & Theft). Endless fun – sometimes takes a hundred listens. I’m still wondering why he included the old studio track of “Lay Lady Lay” at the end of his latest offering- Together Through Life. But I think I know.

  • Pete

    Dying, being born, justice/injustice (vis a vis Hattie Carroll), love, hate, man and God and law… One of the things that has been most remarkable about Dylan through the years is his persistent nosing around the big issues. Almost undetectable drivel levels in his output. So when, in “Isis” (album: Desire), he comes to a “high place of darkness and light” where the “dividing line ran through the center of town” and he “hitched up his pony to a post on the right” and “went into the laundry to wash my clothes down”, met a shadowy guy who was “not ordinary” and who led him on a journey that ends at an empty tomb… well, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Bob’s giving one of the world’s great monotheistic religions the ol’ once over. And not long thereafter announces as much. It’s just SO much fun to brew up a pot of coffee and sit down with another dylanophile or two, throw the latest platter on the turntable and figure out what in the world he’s saying. Figure who’s the speaker in a given song. I think it’s Death in “Moonlight” (album: Love & Theft). Endless fun – sometimes takes a hundred listens. I’m still wondering why he included the old studio track of “Lay Lady Lay” at the end of his latest offering- Together Through Life. But I think I know.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@27) said:

    He’s not the sort of folk musician conservatives should be exalting when they seek to preserve the rich tapestry of traditional music that also embodies concrete, textured ways-of-being and folkways.

    I’m curious — can you name an example of who they “should be exalting”? That is to say, an example from the 60s onward? None leap to mind for me.

    Myself, I’m much more a fan of the Beatles or Motown acts from that era. Which I guess makes me a fan of melody and fairly dense arrangements, not unlike the classical music I also enjoy.

    I just don’t get the fascination with Dylan, at least from a musical standpoint. He’s … sloppy. And monotonous. And not terribly technically proficient — the guy really had no business playing harmonica. I get that quirks and character add color and interest, but … isn’t there a point where you just say, “He’s not that good”? From a musical standpoint, his music compares in my mind to most early punk. A lot of simple strumming, repetitive chords, verse-chorus structure … and politically or socially charged lyrics. But I prefer the punks.

    I mean, is the Dylan thing all about the lyrics? Because I know that, when it comes to music, I’m not nearly as affected by them as others are. I just don’t pay that much attention to them. Maybe some clever scansion will catch my ear every now and then, but other than that… is that it? The message of the lyrics? I really wish I knew.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@27) said:

    He’s not the sort of folk musician conservatives should be exalting when they seek to preserve the rich tapestry of traditional music that also embodies concrete, textured ways-of-being and folkways.

    I’m curious — can you name an example of who they “should be exalting”? That is to say, an example from the 60s onward? None leap to mind for me.

    Myself, I’m much more a fan of the Beatles or Motown acts from that era. Which I guess makes me a fan of melody and fairly dense arrangements, not unlike the classical music I also enjoy.

    I just don’t get the fascination with Dylan, at least from a musical standpoint. He’s … sloppy. And monotonous. And not terribly technically proficient — the guy really had no business playing harmonica. I get that quirks and character add color and interest, but … isn’t there a point where you just say, “He’s not that good”? From a musical standpoint, his music compares in my mind to most early punk. A lot of simple strumming, repetitive chords, verse-chorus structure … and politically or socially charged lyrics. But I prefer the punks.

    I mean, is the Dylan thing all about the lyrics? Because I know that, when it comes to music, I’m not nearly as affected by them as others are. I just don’t pay that much attention to them. Maybe some clever scansion will catch my ear every now and then, but other than that… is that it? The message of the lyrics? I really wish I knew.

  • Jonathan

    Pete said: “One of the things that has been most remarkable about Dylan through the years is his persistent nosing around the big issues. Almost undetectable drivel levels in his output.”

    tODD said: “I mean, is the Dylan thing all about the lyrics?”

    I said: “tODD, I think it is; Dylan’s lyrics about the “big issues” make him great, in my mind. Pete’s comment @28 is an outstanding summation.”

  • Jonathan

    Pete said: “One of the things that has been most remarkable about Dylan through the years is his persistent nosing around the big issues. Almost undetectable drivel levels in his output.”

    tODD said: “I mean, is the Dylan thing all about the lyrics?”

    I said: “tODD, I think it is; Dylan’s lyrics about the “big issues” make him great, in my mind. Pete’s comment @28 is an outstanding summation.”

  • Stephen

    I still have some old Dylan records on vinyl. I’ve got a great story about a neighbor when I was growing up who used to blast “Everybody Must Get Stoned” and sit in his wheelchair on his driveway and smoke weed. As my name is Stephen, the deeper significance of the lyrics penetrated into my mind as I worked on my car just across the street.

    Recently, however, my brother gave me a huge collection of Dylan and I have listened to it once. I love the poetry and the stories, but I just don’t “hear” the music in it when he sings it and I can’t listen to it much. But I have to say, Dylan came on the radio last night as I was driving home. He was singing about a girl who was an artist and it was a truly fine song.

    I think his tunes have the simple melodies common to folk music, but I’d rather hear someone else sing them. I haven’t heard anyone as yet stray far enough away from the “Dylan thing” however when they do to really give it much musicality, except like Hendrix as others have noted. In a similar vein, I think Bluegrass and Blues (a genre Dylan uses) are pretty straight forward musical styles, but they can be incredibly musical and melodic in their simplcity.

    Dylan tells some amazing stories and asks great, timeless questions. His turns of phrase are surprising and even eloquent at times. I also think there are melodies in his songs, they just don’t come out because of his style. That tune “Don’t think twice, it’s alright” comes to mind. Imagine it with someone with a better voice perhaps – who knows? Or something any other one.

    I think his work will outlive him and us for a few reasons. One has to do with the volume of work he has created, its popularity, and the cultural moment he came into and helped to describe. But also apart from that, he is quite a good lyricist of Americana in the 20th c., one of the best ever I’d say, like Woody Guthrie before him, but even more broadly so. He deserves to be regarded as a great American artist I think.

  • Stephen

    I still have some old Dylan records on vinyl. I’ve got a great story about a neighbor when I was growing up who used to blast “Everybody Must Get Stoned” and sit in his wheelchair on his driveway and smoke weed. As my name is Stephen, the deeper significance of the lyrics penetrated into my mind as I worked on my car just across the street.

    Recently, however, my brother gave me a huge collection of Dylan and I have listened to it once. I love the poetry and the stories, but I just don’t “hear” the music in it when he sings it and I can’t listen to it much. But I have to say, Dylan came on the radio last night as I was driving home. He was singing about a girl who was an artist and it was a truly fine song.

    I think his tunes have the simple melodies common to folk music, but I’d rather hear someone else sing them. I haven’t heard anyone as yet stray far enough away from the “Dylan thing” however when they do to really give it much musicality, except like Hendrix as others have noted. In a similar vein, I think Bluegrass and Blues (a genre Dylan uses) are pretty straight forward musical styles, but they can be incredibly musical and melodic in their simplcity.

    Dylan tells some amazing stories and asks great, timeless questions. His turns of phrase are surprising and even eloquent at times. I also think there are melodies in his songs, they just don’t come out because of his style. That tune “Don’t think twice, it’s alright” comes to mind. Imagine it with someone with a better voice perhaps – who knows? Or something any other one.

    I think his work will outlive him and us for a few reasons. One has to do with the volume of work he has created, its popularity, and the cultural moment he came into and helped to describe. But also apart from that, he is quite a good lyricist of Americana in the 20th c., one of the best ever I’d say, like Woody Guthrie before him, but even more broadly so. He deserves to be regarded as a great American artist I think.

  • katy

    Cincinnatus: Yeah, who are these “textured folkway” singers you speak of? Style and talent aside, Dylan has only a handful of songs you could call blatant “protest songs,” mostly written before he was 25. By ’65 he had pretty much abandoned that shtick, but is forever associated with it.

    (Also, keep in mind that conservative does not equal Christian. “Conservative” is a relative term, dependent on what is being “conserved.” I know what you mean, though…)

    Let me just say–it has been my and my husband’s experience–Dylan has been invaluable to younger generations, because he’s a stepping stone to better music (including better music than his own). Really.

    His voice is inferior (sometime even annoying). I’ve never heard anyone argue otherwise. But his “country voice” comes closest to singing, and I love Girl From the North Country.

  • katy

    Cincinnatus: Yeah, who are these “textured folkway” singers you speak of? Style and talent aside, Dylan has only a handful of songs you could call blatant “protest songs,” mostly written before he was 25. By ’65 he had pretty much abandoned that shtick, but is forever associated with it.

    (Also, keep in mind that conservative does not equal Christian. “Conservative” is a relative term, dependent on what is being “conserved.” I know what you mean, though…)

    Let me just say–it has been my and my husband’s experience–Dylan has been invaluable to younger generations, because he’s a stepping stone to better music (including better music than his own). Really.

    His voice is inferior (sometime even annoying). I’ve never heard anyone argue otherwise. But his “country voice” comes closest to singing, and I love Girl From the North Country.

  • Cincinnatus

    katy: Is no one familiar with, erm, “textured folkway” music? That’s not exactly what I called it, but whatever…

    Anyway, I grew up in Appalachia, which even today nurtures a vibrant musical culture whose tune and lyrics preserve, conserve, and attempt to revitalize a concrete cultural framework. Yeah, I’m talking about bluegrass. Yeah, lots of people find it annoying. But it’s musically adept at all levels–lyrically, vocally, instrumentally–when performed by able musicians. Maybe it shouldn’t be compared with Dylan, but Dylan himself seems to desire a comparison with authentic folk music. Say what you will about authenticity, but the stuff I grew up with (and didn’t like so much at the time, admittedly) is far more “authentic” and virtuosic than Dylan’s stuff–as, I suppose, could be said of anything that is able to attract mass attention.

    I grew up around here, by the way: http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/travel/on-virginias-crooked-road-music-lights-the-way.html The article is bit aggravating to me (the Appalachian “mountain people,” as they are patronizingly labeled, will always be the “Other,” a quaint curiosity, to cosmopolitan urbanites, I suppose). Nonetheless, that’s something of what I was thinking.

    Point taken about Dylan-as-stepping-stone. Point not taken about protest songs. Most of his enduringly popular songs (whether or not they are his best or deserve to be his most popular is another matter) are protest songs, subversive counter-cultural paeans. I’m not necessarily opposed to such music myself, but I was noting the curious phenomenon of Christian and/or conservative affection for his corpus. It is just a bit curious, wouldn’t you say?

    Point also not taken regarding common assessments of his voice. I’ve heard far too many worshipful adjectives ascribed to Dylan’s vocals: “authentic,” “gravelly,” “rugged,” etc. I just think it sucks, and as supposed patrons of artistic excellence–at least some of you here claim such a role–I will baldly assert that I don’t think Dylan deserves much praise for his musicianship. Maybe as a poet, maybe even occasionally as a composer–maybe–but not as a musician.

    As I said, though, I’m known to listen to Dylan occasionally. I’m just trying to temper the Dylan-love here and elsewhere a tad. I hope he doesn’t go down in history as one of America’s greatest artists, or else we don’t have much to brag about when we assess the state of American arts.

  • Cincinnatus

    katy: Is no one familiar with, erm, “textured folkway” music? That’s not exactly what I called it, but whatever…

    Anyway, I grew up in Appalachia, which even today nurtures a vibrant musical culture whose tune and lyrics preserve, conserve, and attempt to revitalize a concrete cultural framework. Yeah, I’m talking about bluegrass. Yeah, lots of people find it annoying. But it’s musically adept at all levels–lyrically, vocally, instrumentally–when performed by able musicians. Maybe it shouldn’t be compared with Dylan, but Dylan himself seems to desire a comparison with authentic folk music. Say what you will about authenticity, but the stuff I grew up with (and didn’t like so much at the time, admittedly) is far more “authentic” and virtuosic than Dylan’s stuff–as, I suppose, could be said of anything that is able to attract mass attention.

    I grew up around here, by the way: http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/travel/on-virginias-crooked-road-music-lights-the-way.html The article is bit aggravating to me (the Appalachian “mountain people,” as they are patronizingly labeled, will always be the “Other,” a quaint curiosity, to cosmopolitan urbanites, I suppose). Nonetheless, that’s something of what I was thinking.

    Point taken about Dylan-as-stepping-stone. Point not taken about protest songs. Most of his enduringly popular songs (whether or not they are his best or deserve to be his most popular is another matter) are protest songs, subversive counter-cultural paeans. I’m not necessarily opposed to such music myself, but I was noting the curious phenomenon of Christian and/or conservative affection for his corpus. It is just a bit curious, wouldn’t you say?

    Point also not taken regarding common assessments of his voice. I’ve heard far too many worshipful adjectives ascribed to Dylan’s vocals: “authentic,” “gravelly,” “rugged,” etc. I just think it sucks, and as supposed patrons of artistic excellence–at least some of you here claim such a role–I will baldly assert that I don’t think Dylan deserves much praise for his musicianship. Maybe as a poet, maybe even occasionally as a composer–maybe–but not as a musician.

    As I said, though, I’m known to listen to Dylan occasionally. I’m just trying to temper the Dylan-love here and elsewhere a tad. I hope he doesn’t go down in history as one of America’s greatest artists, or else we don’t have much to brag about when we assess the state of American arts.

  • Elizabeth

    I like Dylan and admit I am old.

    Who’s Generation?

    Some preach that fifty the new thirty be.
    While Madison Avenue tempts us to spend
    Our money on botox to live crease free,
    The marching of time this bandage won’t stand.

    But why must we cling to that which is past?
    Of this obsession Solomon said best
    Our battle on aging never can last.
    “To every thing a season”, quit the quest.

    I say it’s best to leave youth to the young.
    Refuse to believe these lies we’ve been sold.
    The beauties of aging need to be sung.
    I hope I don’t die before I grow old.

    I plan with aging joy and peace to find.
    And sincerely hope I won’t change my mind.

  • Elizabeth

    I like Dylan and admit I am old.

    Who’s Generation?

    Some preach that fifty the new thirty be.
    While Madison Avenue tempts us to spend
    Our money on botox to live crease free,
    The marching of time this bandage won’t stand.

    But why must we cling to that which is past?
    Of this obsession Solomon said best
    Our battle on aging never can last.
    “To every thing a season”, quit the quest.

    I say it’s best to leave youth to the young.
    Refuse to believe these lies we’ve been sold.
    The beauties of aging need to be sung.
    I hope I don’t die before I grow old.

    I plan with aging joy and peace to find.
    And sincerely hope I won’t change my mind.

  • Pete

    Cincinnatus (@33) said:

    “Dylan himself seems to desire a comparison with authentic folk music.”

    Not so sure. I think, instead, he strives to be an authentically American voice and to draw from all corners and all musical voices. His early years were spent soaking up various musical influences and, now in his later years, he’s got a satellite radio show that pays overt homage to a wide array of artists and musical styles. While his music tends towards the folk/rock or rock genres, he has through the years explored other avenues – admittedly with varying success.

    And in terms of squeamishness expressed above about his countercultural, leftist, “protest” beginnings, my take on that is that he was just chameleonizing the crowd that he found himself in with as a young artist in NYC. He has subsequently repeatedly disavowed (in, for him, a rather straightforward manner) being the voice of the countercultural generation. Take “Hattie Carroll” for example. He simply lays out the problem: a rich guy gets away with a heinous crime against a powerless person because the justice system is slanted his way. You could conclude, with the leftists, that the problem there is the very existence of the wealthy/poor dichotomy and that the system stinks. Or you could note that the problem is with William Zanzinger himself in the form of (dare we say) sin. All indications are that, as Dylan has matured, he’s become more expressive of the latter take on it. He’s come more to see the answer as being correction of the sinfulness of Zanzinger and the courts that slapped his wrist rather than scrapping the system.

    Of course (cagey as he is) he’d tell you that the answer is … you guessed it.

  • Pete

    Cincinnatus (@33) said:

    “Dylan himself seems to desire a comparison with authentic folk music.”

    Not so sure. I think, instead, he strives to be an authentically American voice and to draw from all corners and all musical voices. His early years were spent soaking up various musical influences and, now in his later years, he’s got a satellite radio show that pays overt homage to a wide array of artists and musical styles. While his music tends towards the folk/rock or rock genres, he has through the years explored other avenues – admittedly with varying success.

    And in terms of squeamishness expressed above about his countercultural, leftist, “protest” beginnings, my take on that is that he was just chameleonizing the crowd that he found himself in with as a young artist in NYC. He has subsequently repeatedly disavowed (in, for him, a rather straightforward manner) being the voice of the countercultural generation. Take “Hattie Carroll” for example. He simply lays out the problem: a rich guy gets away with a heinous crime against a powerless person because the justice system is slanted his way. You could conclude, with the leftists, that the problem there is the very existence of the wealthy/poor dichotomy and that the system stinks. Or you could note that the problem is with William Zanzinger himself in the form of (dare we say) sin. All indications are that, as Dylan has matured, he’s become more expressive of the latter take on it. He’s come more to see the answer as being correction of the sinfulness of Zanzinger and the courts that slapped his wrist rather than scrapping the system.

    Of course (cagey as he is) he’d tell you that the answer is … you guessed it.

  • SKPeterson

    Well, he didn’t turn 70, but the 19th was the 66th birthday of a guy that I think is a far better musician, singer, arranger and all-around more massive influence on modern pop/rock culture: Peter Townshend.

  • SKPeterson

    Well, he didn’t turn 70, but the 19th was the 66th birthday of a guy that I think is a far better musician, singer, arranger and all-around more massive influence on modern pop/rock culture: Peter Townshend.

  • Pete

    SK @ 36

    Who?

  • Pete

    SK @ 36

    Who?

  • kerner

    Right!

  • kerner

    Right!

  • CRB

    Pete @28 said: “I’m still wondering why he included the old studio track of “Lay Lady Lay” at the end of his latest offering- Together Through Life. But I think I know.”

    From one dylanophile to another:
    I would love to know why, also.

  • CRB

    Pete @28 said: “I’m still wondering why he included the old studio track of “Lay Lady Lay” at the end of his latest offering- Together Through Life. But I think I know.”

    From one dylanophile to another:
    I would love to know why, also.

  • Pete

    CRB (@39)

    Here’s my thought. The theme of the whole album seems to be romantic love – the amorous young couple in the back of the station wagon on the cover, the title (Together Through Life) as well as much of the song content. Now let’s be frank – Dylan’s 70 years old, divorced, doesn’t rate high (might not even register) in the looks department, smokes, workaholic – in short, not a catch. Sure he’s the voice of a generation but that only goes so far. I don’t think he’s telling us that Cupid’s arrow has struck him again.
    So who’s in love here? I think there’s evidence in the songs that the love relationship he’s crooning about here is Christ and the church. Take the song “My Wife’s Hometown”. Sort of a classic blues lament about how his woman done him wrong. But Hell is his wife’s home town. Hmm. Also, “ain’t no way” we can put the singer down (they crucified Jesus but it didn’t take.) She’ll make you steal, make you rob, give you the hives, make you kill someone – lotsa sin there. Yet, “my love for her is all I know.” Then, at the end of the song, he laughs – much as you might do if Hell was your wife’s home town but you rescued her from it.
    How about “If You Ever Go To Houston”. If you go there, you better walk right (be righteous?) and watch out for the man with the shining star. The singer “knows these streets”, been here before – nearly got killed here. Is coming back. He’s sorry that wherever Lucy (Lucifer?) is, he’s not there. He wants Betsy to repent. He’ll leave here the same way he came (Christ will return the way He ascended the bible tells us). They put his tears in a bottle and screwed the top on tight (but that didn’t take, either.) The singer wants the cop to help him look for his gal who he last saw at the Magnolia Motel. Now can’t you just picture the Magnolia Motel and its residents? Christ came for sinners and I bet the Magnolia Motel’s got ‘em.
    In “Beyond Here Lies Nothing” he starts professing eternal love and that the whole world is his throne and that there is nothing beyond this love. Christ and the church? We’ll keep on loving “for as long as love will last”. That’s a long time! When he mentions “the mountains of the past” Sinai and Calvary come to mind, among others. And beyond here (us, our love) nothing is done or said – death as opposed to life.
    “Jolene” is a great song. Jolene comes down High Street (she might be high in the drug sense, but could be high in the exalted sense.) She’s walking in the sun (light? Son?). She’s making dead men rise (the church does that routinely in baptism.) The singer’s the king and Jolene is the queen. The singer feels he’s “paid the price”.
    In “I Feel a Change Coming On” he’s “lookin’ the world over” and sees his baby comin’ – she’s walking with the village priest. Why is she walking with the priest and not the village drunk or the village hero or whatever. But the priest? He tells her that if she wants to live easy, she should pack her clothes with his. I’m particularly struck by the line, “I must be losing my mind – you’re the object of my desire.” Why, after all, would Christ die for sinners? He’s got the blood of the land in his voice.
    So I think tacking “Lay Lady Lay” on the end is Bob’s way of showing us how a song he wrote many years ago plays to the theme of his most current offering. We (and he) might not have understood that at the time – those of us old enough to have been around then. But it’s coming into focus.
    I saw a quote from somebody yesterday, Bob’s 70th, who said something to the effect that you could get ten people in a room and they’d all have different interpretations of a Dylan song or album and they’d all be right.

  • Pete

    CRB (@39)

    Here’s my thought. The theme of the whole album seems to be romantic love – the amorous young couple in the back of the station wagon on the cover, the title (Together Through Life) as well as much of the song content. Now let’s be frank – Dylan’s 70 years old, divorced, doesn’t rate high (might not even register) in the looks department, smokes, workaholic – in short, not a catch. Sure he’s the voice of a generation but that only goes so far. I don’t think he’s telling us that Cupid’s arrow has struck him again.
    So who’s in love here? I think there’s evidence in the songs that the love relationship he’s crooning about here is Christ and the church. Take the song “My Wife’s Hometown”. Sort of a classic blues lament about how his woman done him wrong. But Hell is his wife’s home town. Hmm. Also, “ain’t no way” we can put the singer down (they crucified Jesus but it didn’t take.) She’ll make you steal, make you rob, give you the hives, make you kill someone – lotsa sin there. Yet, “my love for her is all I know.” Then, at the end of the song, he laughs – much as you might do if Hell was your wife’s home town but you rescued her from it.
    How about “If You Ever Go To Houston”. If you go there, you better walk right (be righteous?) and watch out for the man with the shining star. The singer “knows these streets”, been here before – nearly got killed here. Is coming back. He’s sorry that wherever Lucy (Lucifer?) is, he’s not there. He wants Betsy to repent. He’ll leave here the same way he came (Christ will return the way He ascended the bible tells us). They put his tears in a bottle and screwed the top on tight (but that didn’t take, either.) The singer wants the cop to help him look for his gal who he last saw at the Magnolia Motel. Now can’t you just picture the Magnolia Motel and its residents? Christ came for sinners and I bet the Magnolia Motel’s got ‘em.
    In “Beyond Here Lies Nothing” he starts professing eternal love and that the whole world is his throne and that there is nothing beyond this love. Christ and the church? We’ll keep on loving “for as long as love will last”. That’s a long time! When he mentions “the mountains of the past” Sinai and Calvary come to mind, among others. And beyond here (us, our love) nothing is done or said – death as opposed to life.
    “Jolene” is a great song. Jolene comes down High Street (she might be high in the drug sense, but could be high in the exalted sense.) She’s walking in the sun (light? Son?). She’s making dead men rise (the church does that routinely in baptism.) The singer’s the king and Jolene is the queen. The singer feels he’s “paid the price”.
    In “I Feel a Change Coming On” he’s “lookin’ the world over” and sees his baby comin’ – she’s walking with the village priest. Why is she walking with the priest and not the village drunk or the village hero or whatever. But the priest? He tells her that if she wants to live easy, she should pack her clothes with his. I’m particularly struck by the line, “I must be losing my mind – you’re the object of my desire.” Why, after all, would Christ die for sinners? He’s got the blood of the land in his voice.
    So I think tacking “Lay Lady Lay” on the end is Bob’s way of showing us how a song he wrote many years ago plays to the theme of his most current offering. We (and he) might not have understood that at the time – those of us old enough to have been around then. But it’s coming into focus.
    I saw a quote from somebody yesterday, Bob’s 70th, who said something to the effect that you could get ten people in a room and they’d all have different interpretations of a Dylan song or album and they’d all be right.

  • CRB

    Pete,
    Your take on the TTL cd is quite interesting. In a way it reminds me of what Jesus did with his use of parables, “…seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matthew 13:13)
    Btw, I do have that album, but “Lay, lady lay” is not included at the end.

  • CRB

    Pete,
    Your take on the TTL cd is quite interesting. In a way it reminds me of what Jesus did with his use of parables, “…seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matthew 13:13)
    Btw, I do have that album, but “Lay, lady lay” is not included at the end.

  • katy

    I’m sorry, Cincinnatus, for being so snippity. I also enjoy bluegrass, and my husband and I like to take our kids to county fair shows all summer. I misunderstood your labeling, and read “the rich tapestry of traditional music that also embodies concrete, textured ways-of-being and folkways” (sorry also to misquote you the first time) as right out of my Freshman American Music Appreciation class textbook (which did anything but appreciate real American music, although the prof tried hard). I really did not understand what you were talking about, but I do now.

    I think we agree on more than you realize (quality local and live music is usually better than mass production), and I never stated anything contradicting the following statements: “ Say what you will about authenticity, but the stuff I grew up with (and didn’t like so much at the time, admittedly) is far more “authentic” and virtuosic than Dylan’s stuff–as, I suppose, could be said of anything that is able to attract mass attention.” With you 100%. Did you read my #13 post?

    Re:comparing Dylan to authentic folk music: I’m with Pete #35. Regardless of what Dylan thinks of himself, I wouldn’t compare him favorably to “authentic folk music.” (I will give “authenticity” credit, though, to a recording musician who doesn’t dub. Everyone playing/singing together in real time sounds better).

    Re: protest music. I disagreed with you initially, Cincinnatus, when you criticized Christians who overpraised Dylan in spite (or because?) of his leftist protest songs. I said the majority of his music is not political protest (and as Pete pointed out, he took great pains to disassociate himself from the protest scene–good marketing move). And you agreed with me? I’m confused how my point was not taken. Christians or conservatives who go overboard on the hyperbolic praise probably do not have “Times They are A’ Changin’” in mind when they say Dylan’s lyrics contain Truth. It’s unfair to accuse fans of Dylan of promoting (or believing) a political agenda found in a small percentage of his songs, even if most people associate the man only with those few songs.

    And I also think Dylan laughs all the way to the bank, being all cagey and vague and letting everyone think whatever they want about him (and encouraging it). I think I heard somewhere he voted for Barry Goldwater, but maybe that’s mythos :) I admire him for his seemingly humorous attitude toward everyone’s serious opinions about him. But that’s just my perception of him. I’ve read convincing articles about him taking himself waaaay to seriously.

    Anyway, I like the Beatles but I think “Imagine” is one of the wickedest songs ever composed (in 20th century Western popular music–because of its content and widespread acceptance) . Also, I like Pete Townshend, but not his pedo-ways. And Doc Watson is my all-time favorite baritone EVER (lucky enough to see him twice).

  • katy

    I’m sorry, Cincinnatus, for being so snippity. I also enjoy bluegrass, and my husband and I like to take our kids to county fair shows all summer. I misunderstood your labeling, and read “the rich tapestry of traditional music that also embodies concrete, textured ways-of-being and folkways” (sorry also to misquote you the first time) as right out of my Freshman American Music Appreciation class textbook (which did anything but appreciate real American music, although the prof tried hard). I really did not understand what you were talking about, but I do now.

    I think we agree on more than you realize (quality local and live music is usually better than mass production), and I never stated anything contradicting the following statements: “ Say what you will about authenticity, but the stuff I grew up with (and didn’t like so much at the time, admittedly) is far more “authentic” and virtuosic than Dylan’s stuff–as, I suppose, could be said of anything that is able to attract mass attention.” With you 100%. Did you read my #13 post?

    Re:comparing Dylan to authentic folk music: I’m with Pete #35. Regardless of what Dylan thinks of himself, I wouldn’t compare him favorably to “authentic folk music.” (I will give “authenticity” credit, though, to a recording musician who doesn’t dub. Everyone playing/singing together in real time sounds better).

    Re: protest music. I disagreed with you initially, Cincinnatus, when you criticized Christians who overpraised Dylan in spite (or because?) of his leftist protest songs. I said the majority of his music is not political protest (and as Pete pointed out, he took great pains to disassociate himself from the protest scene–good marketing move). And you agreed with me? I’m confused how my point was not taken. Christians or conservatives who go overboard on the hyperbolic praise probably do not have “Times They are A’ Changin’” in mind when they say Dylan’s lyrics contain Truth. It’s unfair to accuse fans of Dylan of promoting (or believing) a political agenda found in a small percentage of his songs, even if most people associate the man only with those few songs.

    And I also think Dylan laughs all the way to the bank, being all cagey and vague and letting everyone think whatever they want about him (and encouraging it). I think I heard somewhere he voted for Barry Goldwater, but maybe that’s mythos :) I admire him for his seemingly humorous attitude toward everyone’s serious opinions about him. But that’s just my perception of him. I’ve read convincing articles about him taking himself waaaay to seriously.

    Anyway, I like the Beatles but I think “Imagine” is one of the wickedest songs ever composed (in 20th century Western popular music–because of its content and widespread acceptance) . Also, I like Pete Townshend, but not his pedo-ways. And Doc Watson is my all-time favorite baritone EVER (lucky enough to see him twice).

  • katy

    So what makes lasting music? Music that withstands time? Certainly not just superb lyrics or tunes. What gives a song staying power? I think less and less music will “last” because fewer people really know music. I don’t mean know all the lyrics and chords, I mean people don’t sing anymore, unless it’s along with a recording. My husband and I were recently discussing some of the annoying
    didactic hymns in our hymnal. The really literal, descriptive ones, with 20 verses. (Of course, being a translation adds to their clunkiness). He said those were written by medievalists (the Reformers were medievals, you know), who were used to singing all the time. Singing for instruction, singing the Hours, singing romances and poems, singing a lot more than we do now. I think an oral, singing culture is a lot more likely to preserve the good stuff for longer. Our culture doesn’t keep anything for long, good or not. Do you think classic childrens’ storybooks like The Hungry Caterpillar will last as long as Ring-a-Round-the-Rosie or Peas Porridge Hot?

  • katy

    So what makes lasting music? Music that withstands time? Certainly not just superb lyrics or tunes. What gives a song staying power? I think less and less music will “last” because fewer people really know music. I don’t mean know all the lyrics and chords, I mean people don’t sing anymore, unless it’s along with a recording. My husband and I were recently discussing some of the annoying
    didactic hymns in our hymnal. The really literal, descriptive ones, with 20 verses. (Of course, being a translation adds to their clunkiness). He said those were written by medievalists (the Reformers were medievals, you know), who were used to singing all the time. Singing for instruction, singing the Hours, singing romances and poems, singing a lot more than we do now. I think an oral, singing culture is a lot more likely to preserve the good stuff for longer. Our culture doesn’t keep anything for long, good or not. Do you think classic childrens’ storybooks like The Hungry Caterpillar will last as long as Ring-a-Round-the-Rosie or Peas Porridge Hot?

  • Andy

    I understand that Dylan wrote ‘Forever Young’ with his son in mind. So it is not that he will be forever young, but that he will always remember his son as a child. What is wrong with such a notion? Obviously worshiping childhood is ridiculous, but the sense I get out of the song is that he’ll always remember his son being young. Though it is good for children to grow up and mature, who with kids can’t empathize a bit? I wouldn’t overthink this one and tie it too narcissism, but perhaps there is something I don’t know.

  • Andy

    I understand that Dylan wrote ‘Forever Young’ with his son in mind. So it is not that he will be forever young, but that he will always remember his son as a child. What is wrong with such a notion? Obviously worshiping childhood is ridiculous, but the sense I get out of the song is that he’ll always remember his son being young. Though it is good for children to grow up and mature, who with kids can’t empathize a bit? I wouldn’t overthink this one and tie it too narcissism, but perhaps there is something I don’t know.

  • Pete

    CRB (@41)

    Not sure why I got the bonus track and you didn’t. I think I bought the CD version, but I’m not sure. It sure fits though. But isn’t it sad to listen to LLL recorded however many years ago and realize that we used to complain about his voice back then! Sounds positively melodic now.

  • Pete

    CRB (@41)

    Not sure why I got the bonus track and you didn’t. I think I bought the CD version, but I’m not sure. It sure fits though. But isn’t it sad to listen to LLL recorded however many years ago and realize that we used to complain about his voice back then! Sounds positively melodic now.

  • Pete

    CRB (@41)

    I think your observation that Dylan may be using the parable format is insightful. Jesus’ express purpose in using parables was to conceal His meaning. I’m suspicious that Dylan is doing the same thing. Might, in fact, be his mode of witness. Recall that when he went through his “born again” phase he took a lot of heat for not doing some of his older stuff. Ticket sales tailed off. Folks didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. To this day, I prefer listening to Street Legal, with all kinds of imbedded clues to his impending conversion (listen to the song, “New Pony”) than to Slow Train Coming. He’s at his best when he’s vague and non-explicit. In a way, I think that’s perhaps a reality that touches on the “worship wars”. Popular music or rock music might truly not work as well as other forms (say, Bach) for praise or church music. Or maybe I’m just poisoned by my lutheran context – if it ain’t liturgical, it ain’t worship.
    Regardless, some of the stuff he’s done since he left the “Gospel” phase is so much better. Listen to “Summer Days” from L&T and try to imagine it as referring to anything other than the heavenly wedding feast of the King. The singer notes that the seasons have come to an end but he knows a place where there’s still “somethin’ goin’ on.” I’ve heard it live three or four times now and it just ROCKS!

  • Pete

    CRB (@41)

    I think your observation that Dylan may be using the parable format is insightful. Jesus’ express purpose in using parables was to conceal His meaning. I’m suspicious that Dylan is doing the same thing. Might, in fact, be his mode of witness. Recall that when he went through his “born again” phase he took a lot of heat for not doing some of his older stuff. Ticket sales tailed off. Folks didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. To this day, I prefer listening to Street Legal, with all kinds of imbedded clues to his impending conversion (listen to the song, “New Pony”) than to Slow Train Coming. He’s at his best when he’s vague and non-explicit. In a way, I think that’s perhaps a reality that touches on the “worship wars”. Popular music or rock music might truly not work as well as other forms (say, Bach) for praise or church music. Or maybe I’m just poisoned by my lutheran context – if it ain’t liturgical, it ain’t worship.
    Regardless, some of the stuff he’s done since he left the “Gospel” phase is so much better. Listen to “Summer Days” from L&T and try to imagine it as referring to anything other than the heavenly wedding feast of the King. The singer notes that the seasons have come to an end but he knows a place where there’s still “somethin’ goin’ on.” I’ve heard it live three or four times now and it just ROCKS!

  • CRB

    Pete @46,
    Yep, I know what you’re saying and I really liked “Slow Train…” when it came out, but you’re right, he is at his best with vague.
    I’m not familiar with Street Legal, have to ck. out “New Pony” and
    “Summer Days,” as well. I wonder if he’s going to continue to tour?
    Heard some of his stuff on YouTube from his “world tour” and much of it was undiscernable, voice is really shot. His band is great, though!

  • CRB

    Pete @46,
    Yep, I know what you’re saying and I really liked “Slow Train…” when it came out, but you’re right, he is at his best with vague.
    I’m not familiar with Street Legal, have to ck. out “New Pony” and
    “Summer Days,” as well. I wonder if he’s going to continue to tour?
    Heard some of his stuff on YouTube from his “world tour” and much of it was undiscernable, voice is really shot. His band is great, though!

  • CRB

    Pete,
    I just listened to “New Pony” but I guess it’s too vague for me to “get it”. Can you explain? Thanks!

  • CRB

    Pete,
    I just listened to “New Pony” but I guess it’s too vague for me to “get it”. Can you explain? Thanks!

  • Pete

    CRB (@48)

    Well, he had a pony whose name was Lucifer. But then he got a new pony. Changing horses. It’s a perfectly awful song but describes his leaving one kingdom for another. Leaving Satan behind. About as explicit as Dylan gets.

  • Pete

    CRB (@48)

    Well, he had a pony whose name was Lucifer. But then he got a new pony. Changing horses. It’s a perfectly awful song but describes his leaving one kingdom for another. Leaving Satan behind. About as explicit as Dylan gets.


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