It was Dylan that inspired me
I am a singer-songwriter and if asked how I got started I would always answer that it was Bob Dylan that first inspired me.
When I was in my teens in the early sixties I was listening to Tamla Motown, Soul and Ska music, I was enjoying The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and then I got into a lot of acts that were part of the "hippie era," like Jethro Tull, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Jimi Hendrix, Edgar Broughton Band, Procul Harum and many more. But the singer-songwriter who really motivated me to want a guitar and to try writing my own stuff was Dylan.
There are a lot or reasons. I was captivated by the way he didn't sound at all like anyone else and his image of just a guy with guitar and harmonica, but really it was the lyrics. Bob Dylan, to my mind, is a poet above all his other talents. It is his words that grab you.
Bob Dylan - the singer-songwriter who inspired the Bard of Ely
Bob Dylan has inspired countless writers and performers in the world of music and poetry as well as many imitations. He is one of the most influential singer-songwriters ever.
It was Dylan that inspired me
Classic Bob Dylan albums to buy
Best of Dylan
|The Best of Bob Dylan|
The phenomenal Bob Dylan season continues with the first ever career-spanning single disc greatest hits collection from one of the most fascinating and influential artists to em...Sony / Only $10.29
|The Essential Bob Dylan|
Includes Blowin' in the Wind; Don't Think Twice, It's All Right; The Times They Are A-Changin'; It Ain't Me Babe; Maggie's Farm; It's All Over Now, Baby Blue; Mr. Tambourine Man...Sony / Only $5.99
Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie
Early Bob Dylan songs like Blowin' In The Wind and Times They Are A-changin' had a rawness to them that punched through the popular music that was getting played. The Beatles came to fame singing "She Loves You" but Dylan was asking "How many times must the canon-ball fly before they are forever banned?" It was an entirely different type of song-writing and lyric.
Of course I understood that Dylan had started by copying his hero, Woody Guthrie, but it was as if he took on the mantle of his dying idol and somehow went much further with his compositions. Guthrie was suffering from Huntingdon's Disease and the young Dylan went to visit his hero in hospital before he died.
Bob Dylan once admitted: "I said to myself I was going to be Guthrie's greatest disciple." And this is what he did!
Dylan the blues player
Another big part of Bob Dylan's make-up and ability is the blues singer and player. This has stayed with him throughout his career and many of his songs are blues songs with Dylan-style lyrics.
His early interpretations of blues and traditional folk songs before he started in earnest writing and recording his own material show where his roots and influences lay. Dylan's version of House of the Rising Sun is as far from The Animals' pop chart hit of the same song as you can get but for me it was what the song was supposed to sound like.
I loved to listen to other folk singers and singer-songwriters too, and still do. Donovan, Cat Stevens, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Roy Harper and Joni Mitchell were all a big inspiration to me too, and still are, and I have to admit that Young has become my favourite of all time, but none of them, even in their best songs and finest moments, were able to turn out lyrics like Dylan.
By that I mean epic songs like Gates of Eden, Desolation Row, Mr Tambourine Man and Visions of Johanna. It was as if he was tapping into somewhere deep, somewhere you could relate to even though the words were often abstract. There was something prophetic, something divinely inspired, something that spoke to the human condition, something very personal and honest, and something very different!
Blonde On Blonde for me was a classic album and I used to play Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands over and over.
Dylan goes electric
His new sound upset the folkies
It never mattered to me at all when Dylan went electric but many of the folkies who considered him firmly in the folk tradition couldn't cope with him playing rock music. He was the same singer-songwriter with the same brilliant lyrics.
Some people don't like Bob Dylan's voice but that has never mattered to me at all either. I can hear what he sings and that is what does matter. It's his words that count.
So it was throughout his very long career that it never mattered to me what Bob Dylan was doing. I suppose I was a devoted fan. I faithfully used to get all his albums and I found plenty I loved in them all, including Dylan's Christian period.
Street-Legal that was just before Slow Train Coming and Saved, I have said for me personally was his finest album ever. I was going through a relationship breakdown and traumatic conditions in my life and the desperation in some of Dylan's lyrics and voice hit home to me hard on that record.
Stand-out songs for me from Street-Legal are Changing of the Guards, True Love Tends to Forget and Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat).
Dylan has said in more recent times that he doesn't know where those early songs came from. Neil Young has commented on this in an interview he gave - about how this sort of writing is a gift you cannot own and how it comes and can go and can come back again.
Shot of Love and Infidels were two Bob Dylan albums that were released in the '80s with songs that stand out for me being Every Grain of Sand, Jokerman, Union Sundown and License to Kill.
Best Bob Dylan books
Dylan books to buy
|Bob Dylan: All the Songs - the Story Behind Every Track|
All the Songs is the most comprehensive exploration of Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize-winning music and lyrics yet, with the behind-the-scenes look at the studio recording session, alb...
Black Dog & Leventhal
|That Thin, Wild Mercury Sound: Dylan, Nashville, and the Making of Blonde on Blonde|
That Thin, Wild Mercury Sound is the definitive treatment of Bob Dylan’s magnum opus, Blonde on Blonde, not only providing the most extensive account of the sessions that produc...
Chicago Review Press
|The Lyrics: 1961-2012|
WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE IN LITERATURE A beautiful, comprehensive volume of Dylan’s lyrics, from the beginning of his career through the present day—with the songwriter’s edits...
Simon & Schuster
|Daniel Kramer: Bob Dylan, A Year and a Day|
Bringing It All Back Home Daniel Kramer’s classic Bob Dylan portfolio captures the artist’s transformative “big bang” year of 1964–65. Over the course of a year and a day, Krame...
Bob Dylan albums
|Bob Dylan (album)|
High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles! Bob Dylan is the debut album by the American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released in March 1962 on Columbia Records. It features two...
Book on Demand Ltd.
Since it first appeared on the 1974 album Planet Waves, "Forever Young" has been one of Bob Dylan's most beloved songs. Now award-winning artist Paul Rogers gives us a new inter...
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Tempest is Bob Dylan's highly-anticipated 35th studio album and coincides with the 50th anniversary of his 1962 eponymous debut album. Produced by Jack Frost and recorded with t...
Neil Young talks about Bob Dylan
Another great singer-songwriter praises Dylan
Every Grain of Sand
An Elvis Costello favourite
Elvis Costello is reported to have said that he thinks Every Grain of Sand is Dylan's best song ever, and I think I might agree with him on that.
In the following two verses from Every Grain of Sand perhaps you can see why I can say this? This is Bob Dylan singing a confessional, this is Bob Dylan showing how far his contemplations on the meaning of life have taken him, this is Bob Dylan the poet at his best:
"I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer's dream, in the chill of a wintry light,
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space,
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face.
I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me.
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand."
Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.