Bob Dylan - the singer-songwriter who inspired the Bard of Ely

by BardofEly

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
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.

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  / $18.98  $6.31

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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 $13.98

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Bob Dylan and Joan Baez 1963 March on Washington

Dylan and Baez in Public Domain

Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie

Dylan's mentor

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!

Blonde On Blonde

A classic Dylan double album
Blonde On Blonde

Only $9.99

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The Blues

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 EdenDesolation RowMr 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 GuardsTrue 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 SandJokerman, Union Sundown and License to Kill. 

Best Bob Dylan books

Dylan books to buy
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
$60.00  $37.75

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Chronicles: Volume One

WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE IN LITERATURE The celebrated first memoir from arguably the most influential singer-songwriter in the country, Bob Dylan.“I’d come from a long ways off...

Simon & Schuster
$16.00  $9.69

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Bob Dylan: All the Songs - the Story Behind Every Track

Get the story behind every recording session, album, and single released during Bob Dylan's illustrious-and now Nobel Prize-winning-career.Bob Dylan: All the Songs is the New Yo...

Black Dog & Leventhal
$50.00  $25.55

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Music legend Bob Dylan's only work of fiction—a combination of stream of consciousness prose, lyrics, and poetry that gives fans insight into one of the most influential singer-...

$14.00  $9.85

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Bob Dylan

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.
$19.95  $19.94

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Forever Young

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
$17.99  $9.93

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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...

$11.98  $2.94

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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.

Every Grain of Sand by Bob Dylan Live 1984

From the album Shot Of Love

Bob Dylan's Shot Of Love

One of Dylan's best albums
Shot Of Love

Only $8.99

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Every Grain Of Sand

Only $0.99

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Updated: 11/08/2012, BardofEly
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


BardofEly on 05/27/2013

Thank you!

Guest on 05/27/2013

Some good basic information. I listed it on my page: "Bob Dylan, God's Poet."

BardofEly on 11/09/2012

Thank you for your comments! That must have been a great concert!

kajohu on 11/09/2012

Even though Bob Dylan isn't my favorite singer/songwriter I enjoy hearing him sing, and hearing other people sing his songs. I had the pleasure of hearing him locally when he actually opened for Paul Simon. They both sang 2 - 3 songs together. This was a number of years ago. I enjoyed reading your review of him.

BardofEly on 11/09/2012

I saw him when I was 16 and thought he was terrible live but that hasn't mattered to me because his songs are SO excellent!

Mira on 11/09/2012

Hello BardofEly, you've inspired me to listen to more Dylan songs. I saw him in concert here in Bucharest one summer. His voice is almost gone and he didn't interact with the public at all, but I was glad to be there nevertheless.

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