#TBT The Poet of a Generation: Bob Dylan
On this Throwback Thursday, I would like to transport us back to a Saturday in Duluth, Minnesota--May 24th, to be precise--when a legend was born. After moving from Duluth to the, considerably smaller, Minnesota town of Hibbing, Robert Allen Zimmerman--or Bob Dylan, as so many of us know him today--would find himself constantly drawn to music, forming numerous bands, and repeatedly being asked to turn the volume down. LIFE regards Bob Dylan’s journey from performing on a high school talent show stage to being recognized as Rolling Stone’s 7th greatest singer--not a bad slot when your competition includes Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, John Lennon, and Marvin Gaye--as not just unlikely but “impossible” unless Dylan were “a genius." A genius, most of the world agrees that is exactly how to describe Bob Dylan, though he is quick to counter that he is “just a man with a trade."
From 1959 to 1976, Bob Dylan steadily picked up speed with no sign of ever slowing down. The 60's and early 70's were a whirlwind of performances from a Minneapolis coffee shop to Greenwich Village, Cafe Wha?, then onto Carnegie Hall, numerous album releases, even, allegedly, introducing The Beatles to marijuana. During this Golden Age of Dylan, he was experimenting with music and culture, exploring his abilities and limits, and developing himself as an artist: getting booed on stage for going electric, releasing, what are regarded as, his most country album--Nashville Skyline, most intimate album--Another Side of Bob Dylan, and also his most classically Bob Dylan albums.
Booed on Stage:
"Girl from the North Country" from Nashville Skyline
"It Ain't Me Babe" from Another Side of Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is well known for his political and protest songs, particularly those related to the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s, though never truly comfortable with being labeled as a protest musician--once saying "this here ain't no protest song or anything like that, 'cause I don't write no protest songs.” An exhaustive list of songs that have been interpreted as protest songs is an easy Google away and will turn up upwards of 20 songs--each thoughtful, challenging, and influential in its own way.
"Only A Pawn In Their Game"
"Blowin’ In The Wind"
However uncomfortable with this identity Dylan may have been, his songs contributed to paving the way for other artists to write politically relevant songs and truly had an impact on historically-contemporary movements and movements of today.
Bob Dylan is famous for his poetry, mastery of the guitar, and his role in providing a soundscape for social movements; his seemingly endless evolutions of himself, his signature pout, unruly hair, and his distinctive voice… Bob Dylan has had, and continues to have, an undeniable impact on the music industry both in style and content. Dylan’s influence on artists of the 60’s and 70’s--we’re talking, Jimi Hendrix, Donovan, Johnny Cash, The Beatles--who have covered Dylan’s songs, sung alongside him, and developed their own sound by learning from him as well as his influence on artists of today has helped curate the music we listen to and love. You have Bob Dylan to thank for Make You Feel My Love (written by Bob Dylan and popularized by Billy Joel in 1997) and All Along the Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix) along with numerous other songs that have been covered, borrowed, and built upon--a recycling process it doesn’t seem Dylan seems to mind too much, he said himself “That’s the folk tradition. You use what’s been handed down.”
"Sara" from Desire
While I talk mostly about The Golden Age of Dylan, the folk music legend has not ceased to release new music and even continues to perform live shows.
"Beyond Here Lies Nothin'"
For you, Bob Dylan may be something completely different than he is for me--you may prefer the sharp tongued, clever Dylan loaded with metaphor and poetic expression or the slower, more rambling Dylan, or another evolution of this man. Whatever your preference, it’s clear that Bob Dylan’s poetry is not limited to just one generation.
"The Times They Are A-Changin'"
image credit: Wikimedia