Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dylan in America



Audioing Dylan in America by Sean Wilentz and finding it interesting. The framing makes it quite interesting to me--what he puts in and what he leaves out. He pretty much dismisses Dylan from the late seventies-early eighties to the late nineties.

I saw Dylan play once and he never engaged with the audience at all. This would have been in the early nineties. Quite a disappointment. But some of those songs....What do you think? What is his place in the annals of American music?

16 comments:

David Cranmer said...

He will be remembered a hundred years from now. His writing along with Leonard Cohen is among the best of the last fifty years.

Jerry House said...

What David said.

Richard Prosch said...

Interesting the dismissal of his later work. And sad to me that the general public seemingly ignores an original album by someone like Dylan or Paul McCartney, but eats up an album of old standards by more mediocre acts.

Anonymous said...

We last saw him perform in 1999 with Paul Simon. Same thing - he didn't talk to the audience at all (actually, neither did Simon, other than to introduce his band) and he was generally weird. The oddest part was when the two did a couple of each other's songs, as a duet. Let's just say it worked better with Simon did it two years later with Brian Wilson, but maybe their music just coalesced better.

As for the music, I agree with David Cramer's comment. He will not be forgotten in any way. For me the 1960's stuff is still amazing. Indeed, I once saw where Dylan commented on listening to "Blowing in the Wind" and wondering where it came from himself.

Jeff M.

Erik Donald France said...

He will be remembered in a thousand years, if there's anyone left alive here.

I've seen him over three decades, and think he's the bee's knees. He's certainly a bit weird. The music and backing band is usually very tight, his voice by itself a horror, and man, hard to believe but it's all good!

Elaine Ash said...

I was listening to Dylan today on my car MP3 with his raspy, three-note range. One of the greatest songwriters that ever lived, IMO. He's a masterful interpreter of lyrics with those three notes. Imagine what he could have done with a voice, no disrespect intended, I think most musicians agree that he has limited vocal abilities. His songs captured the soul of a generation and I agree, a hundred years from now, people will still be listening.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Leonard Cohen was a good singer once but I am not sure Dylan ever was and yet nobody seems to sing Dylan's songs any better than he does whereas I think a lot of people sing Cohen's better than he does. Does this makes sense? Maybe Dylan's songs are especially crafted for his voice. I'm not sure.

Scott Cupp said...

I've seen Dylan twice (once on the Paul Simon tour) and had a great time at both shows. He remains one of the best musical treasures America ever had.

Chad said...

I've seen Dylan several times live. I've always found him hit or miss in concert. Sometimes, he's been just electric and brilliant. Other times, he's just sort of been standing there.

I've always thought that what we think of as his particular singing voice was just a stylistic choice. I think there's big differences between his voice on A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall, Lay Lady Lay, The Girl From The North Country, and Times Have Changed. Once you reach a certain level of fame, I think you become distilled into certain images and perceptions.

I never particularly cared for any of the music from his Born Again phase.

I don't think he's ever been irrelevant. Even now. I think it's more a case that he doesn't get the same mass-marketed and corporate produced push that someone from the auto-tune generation gets. But in a lot of ways, I think the monolithic structure of the music industry still hasn't accepted the fact that they, themselves, have become irrelevant.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The Wilentz book dismissed those years as well-blaming his lack of creativity largely on drugs, I think. He is certainly one of the major, if not the major, song writer/musician of the last fifty years.

Deb said...

A great artist--but not necessarily a congenial one. I saw him in concert last year (headlining a show that also featured Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp) and he did absolutely nothing to engage the audience. It upset me to see people leaving in droves after just a couple of songs, but Dylan was utterly indifferent.

Anonymous said...

I read his CHRONICLES, Volume 1 five years ago and found it amazingly interesting. If you haven't read it you should.

Jeff M.

George said...

I saw Bob Dylan in concert in 1965. It was my first rock concert. Security was provided by some Hell's Angels. The first half of the concert was acoustic. The audience was ecstatic. After the Intermission, Dylan and his Band took the stage and launched into LIKE A ROLLING STONE. There were some boos and cries of "Sellout!" Some heckler rang a loud cowbell. The Hell's Angels "addressed" the problem and the rest of the concert went on without incident. I prefer the Dylan of HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED and BLONDE ON BLONDE. His music will be listened to a hundred years from now.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, that was a pivotal moment. Lucky you for being there.

MP said...

I, too, saw Dylan in the mid-60s, either '65 or '66. It was after the release of "Highway 61 Revisited" cause he did some stuff from that album. It was an acoustic first half and an electric second half. When the electric half started a few people yelled out "sing something old", and Dylan shot them a bird. That was his only interaction with the audience. It was a great performance though.

I'm also tempted to dismiss the born again phase, but it did produce one of his best songs, "Every Grain of Sand".

Todd Mason said...

I don't rate him as as important as you all do, nor as lasting, but he did become a kind of focal point, and of the jackasses (personally rather than artistically) that have been many of CBS's biggest stars during CBS's actual prprietorship of Columbia Records (also including Sinatra and Miles Davis), he probably was the most restrained. As Mike Royko noted, when he started he was pretty blatantly a Woody Guthrie impressionist, and it took him a while to find the first of his voices...BRINING IT ALL BACK HOME might've been the first fully-realized record, and it was notably the first with much electric instrumentation, if less than REVISITED. Some songs, "Just Like a Woman," were always pretty dire. Some, like "Like a Rolling Stone" or "Subterranean Homesick Blues," were always pretty brilliant, if usually pretty spiteful. Hey, though, he was partly responsible for the Byrds and the Band attaining what success they did, so there's that. They, and Fairport Convention, have been known to do better jobs with Dylan songs than Dylan himself has.