My mother was chagrined when I went from listening to the Beatles at age 13 to Bob Dylan at 14. “At least the Beatles can sing; how can your ears stand that?”
Neither she nor I could have conceived that four decades later Bob Dylan would be a Nobel laureate of literature.
Some of his songs that have put me in a trance over the years: Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, Brownsville Girl, Series of Dreams, Highlands, Like a Rolling Stone, Not Dark Yet, Absolutely Sweet Marie, Thunder on the Mountain, Blind Willie McTell, When the Levee Breaks. And the Japanese cover of My Back Pages by the Magokoro Brothers. Oh, and Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.
I recently went back to Jonathan Cott’s collection of Essential Interviews with Dylan over the years. (I must have given that book as a graduation present to two or three SLU students. For some reason, “Girl from the North Country” comes to my mind.) What follows—first, what some of the interviewers said about Dylan; second, some classic Dylan musings; third, a list of singers he cites, worth getting (re)acquainted with.
Elusive, oblique, mercurial, and always in motion, he has resisted in both his life and his work being categorized, encapsulated, finalized, conventionalized, canonized, and deified. Xii
He has a superb ear for speech rhythms, a generally astute sense of selective detail, and a natural storyteller’s command of narrative pacing. 22
He has more presence that anyone I’ve ever met. 340
He brought the linguistic beauty of Shakespeare, Byron, and Dylan Thomas, and the expansiveness and beat experimentation of Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Ferlinghetti, to the folk poetry of Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams. 368
During a recording career that now spans 35 years, Dylan has been a cornucopia of inconsistency. Visionary and crank, innovator and conservator, irritant and stimulant, skeptic and proselytizer, rebel and sellout, pathfinder and lost patrol: Dylan has been all of those things, and many more. 392 Read the rest of this entry »