“I've never written a political song. Songs can't save the world. I've gone through all that.” – Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan – An Encyclopedia of Rock
His influence on popular music changed America and the rest of the world. His songs, his words inspired artists, politicians, filmmakers, writers and historians. The reluctant messiah of a generation protesting the Vietnam War, guitar player, music genre creator, rock’s first shaman, revolutionary poet (for his fans), mysterious agent of change; Dylan is a giant! His distinctive nasal voice, intellectual depth and surrealism in his songwriting have made Bob Dylan arguable the most important artist in popular music.
The Dylanseque World
If there would be no Dylan, there would be no Sgt. Pepper, no Exile on Mainstreet, no Born to Run, no Joshua Tree and no Marshall Mathers. Bob Dylan created a musical landscape from his albums in the 60s that will remain as the foundations of various genres of rock, folk, blues and pop. The late resurgence by a trilogy of commercially and critically acclaimed albums has ensured that the legacy and staying power is all intact. Dylan was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame by Bruce Springsteen in 1988. In 1995 Rolling Stone magazine selected the iconic “Like a Rolling Stone” as the greatest song ever recorded.
Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman in Minnesota in 1941 into a simple Jewish family. By 1959 he started calling himself Bob Dylan a reference to British poet Dylan Thomas. In 1961 he was in New York City and started performing in clubs in Greenwich Village area. His interest in traditional folk music culminated into sighing with Columbia Records and his first self-titled debut album Bob Dylan in 1962. The album made little impact.
New York – The Beginning
In 1963 he released his second album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” with its legendary cover, the album made Dylan the hero of the protest movement. The acoustic set featured classics like “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Masters of War”. The album was certified platinum and was his first UK No.1 Albums
“Times they are a-Changing” and “Another Side of Bob Dylan” cemented his Folk hero status. But Dylan was looking elsewhere, he wanted to progress as an artist and make the music which he felt in his soul. “Bringing it all Back Home” was part electric and part acoustic. “Subterranean Home Sick Blues” and “Maggie’s Farm” were radically different from anything which he had done before. The album shocked his folk fans. Then came the Newport incident in 1965 where he was booed for playing an electric set.
The Electric Folk Hero
Dylan released “Like a Rolling Stone” a rock tune with the legendary organ riff. Over the years the song has taken an iconic place in rock history. It is one of the most widely covered songs in contemporary music by artist such as Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones. In fact Dylan joined The Stones during the bands stadium tours to play the song. The accompanying album was electric, bluesy and rock sounding – Highway 61 Revisited continued the astonishing consistency.
Like a Rolling Stone
Dylan released the double album “Blonde on Blonde” with its iconic album psychedelic cover was a massive seller and certified platinum. The ’67 album “John Wesley Harding” was return to acoustic roots and “Nashville Skyline” was pure country. Both albums were platinum selling, cementing Dylan’s legendary status.
But by 1969, Dylan was exhausted. He needed a break from the global expectations. In mysterious circumstances Dylan had a motorcycle accident which put him out of commission for the entire year. In 1970 Dylan returned again with a double album “Self Portrait” a record which was universally dubbed the worst album ever recorded. Dylan years later would confess to have recorded bad music just to keep people away; during the 70s Dylan would record the post divorce gem “Blood on the Tracks” and “Desire” which are considered as part of his classics. The hurried song “Hurricane” was the about the conviction of African American boxer Rubin Carter. It was a return to his protest song writing.
Through the late 70s and 80s Dylan toured the world and released a string of albums which failed to have the same kind of impact. Bob Dylan found himself in a strange new world order, where he was not the only “one”. The musical landscape was changing with different styles and MTV. The world was no longer reaching out the old messiah, there new pretenders trying to take his place.
The Wilderness Years
In 1988 Dylan started the Never Ending Tour which saw him tour the world in the last 20 years. He does about 100 shows a year.
There was renewed interest in the music of Bob Dylan as many contemporary artists were covering his music. And Columbia released compilation albums in 1994 which was certified gold in the US. Bob Dylan started recording music with renowned producer Daniel Lanois (U2, Willie Nelson and Peter Gabriel). This was a strange time for Dylan as his last album Under the Red Sky was a disappointment and his musical identity since the Eighties was alienating his fans. As the recording sessions began, several new arrangements, alternative guitar playing and jamming brought out the very best sounds. The studio sessions were as much about creating the right atmosphere for the vocals to come out. Lanois has always focused on the rhythm section and his attention to the bands musical subtleness shines through the album. The record won “Album of the Year” at the Grammies.
The Resurgence Trilogy
In 2001, Dylan recorded “Love and Theft” which was one of his highest charted albums in decades. The album was more immediate and up-tempo and rockabilly as compared to its predecessor. The album can be considered as a concept album as it talked about several characters and their outcome. The song “Mississippi” was a piano based ballad. The album was another gold certified effort and received fantastic critical acclaim.
The third in the trilogy was released 5 years later in 2006 called Modern Times. It gave Bob Dylan his first US No.1 album since “Planet Waves” 30 years before. Modern Times is a modern classic with blues riffs and rockabilly sounds. The lyrics are contemporary and cohesive. The album has sold 4 million copies world wide.
Another No.1 album in the US and UK was a much for simpler and chilled out record as compared to the album. The opening track “Beyond Here Lies Nothing” sounds a bit like the Santana grove, is a melodic rock tune which fits well a contemporary love song. Dylan has never sounded so casual and relaxed. His growling in “My Wife’s Home Town” is reminiscent of Muddy Waters “I just want to make love to you”
Together through time
Did you know that...
- ...Bob Dylan’s son Jakob Dylan is the lead singer of successful rock group the Wallflowers
- ...Bob Dylan performed “Blowin’ in the Wind” for the 1983 Live Aid concert with Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. During the song, Dylan broke his guitar string and Ronnie gave him his guitar
- ...Bob Dylan made a commercial for Victoria’s Secret with supermodel Adriana Lima