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Tuesday, 29 May, 2001, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Bob Dylan: What is his legacy to music?
On his 60th birthday, Bob Dylan has been voted the greatest songwriter ever by BBC News Online users.
During the 1960's Dylan's songs, such as Mr Tambourine Man and Like A Rolling Stone, became an anthem for the generation.
Stevie Wonder called him one of the finest ever lyricists and Joe Strummer said: "He laid down the template for lyric, tune, seriousness, spirituality, depth of rock music."
What is his legacy to rock music? Is he the greatest, as many songwriters and BBC users believe? Or has judgment been clouded by nostalgia? Does Dylan's reputation need some downsizing?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
You can't argue with Dylan. HE does the writing, the playing, the arranging...the whole interpretation. If you say you don't like his singing, well then you reject expressionism. If you say you don't like his lyrics, you're ignoring brilliant phrasing. You simply cannot be considered a serious music fan and not be awed by him. He's the best, it's not even close really.
The distinction needs to be made: Dylan was (is) a writer of great songs rather than a great songwriter: neither songwriting per se nor musicianship has ever been his top priority. What he is, beyond any doubt at all, is a truly great poet. I will happily contend that his poetry is among the finest the last sixty years has to offer. Long may he continue.
Listen to Nina Simone cover "Just Like a Woman" and you can understand Dylan's skill at expressing complex emotions inside relationships. Bowie and the Beatles never achieved this.
Bob Dylan could do three things: write lyrics, play a musical instrument and create classic tunes; something that the present generation of so-called pop stars palpably fail to do.
Bob Dylan is one of the most influential singer/songwriters of all time, that goes without saying. As for greatest lyricist ever...I'd give that title to Lennon. Without a doubt, the Beatles have done the most to influence popular music today.
Bob Dylan is simply the greatest thing since the invention of French Toast.
Bob Dylan is the opiate of the pseudo-intellectuals.
Bob Dylan composed music and wrote lyrics to many memorable songs. But he never wrote any computer software or got rich selling overpriced computer or communications gadgets. So who cares about Bob Dylan in the year 2001?
The lyrics of Dylan's early songs were the conscience of a generation. So may of the freedoms and human rights that we take for granted today simply did not exist in the early/mid sixties. Dylan's songs such as 'Blowing in the Wind', The Time are Changing', 'Ballad of Hattie Carol', 'Hollis Brow' etc highlighted the social inequalities of the times, and encouraged a young generation to do something about them. Not only is he a wonderful musician, but a great social reformer
Although a prolific songwriter, I can see no valid reason why he should be voted the best ever, that is rubbish, pure sentimental rubbish
Amanda Bradley, Seattle, Washington
Don't know. Is there a legacy? Neither me or my friends ever listened to Dylan, but we were hugely impressed by Hendrix's version of "All along the watchtower" when it came out. I think he is as overrated as U2 and Sting. Big names, huge sales, but mediocre music. Can't say anything about the lyrics.
He is a symbol of a generation - lie back, don't be "negative", accumulate heaps of cash telling people what they want to hear and let your grandchildren clear up the mess you made of the world while you were making up songs blaming everybody else - show the world that, with slick marketing you can sell anybody as a singer and intellectual - thank God the 60s have gone, I just wish the apologists for that era of selfishness would retire!
Only Paul Simon comes close to drawing any suitable comparisons with the man.
His reputation, people say, is his really good lyrics. Problem is his singing is so bad it's too much effort to take note of what it is he's wailing about. He can strum like a good 'un though.
Whichever mood I am in, there is a Bob Dylan song that I find myself in. And I do not mean only in terms of lyrics, but also in terms of music. What makes him even more admirable is the fact that he found time to devote for making life of humanity better by being an activist.
I'm sure that Mr. Dylan is an example of that even if you can't sing, can't play any instrument and if you write something just remotely related to true poetry, but with the assistance from so-called rock-critics (99% of whom don't have music education or any proper education) and biased journalists and doing all the stuff in the right time you can become a legend.
At times, it's just sad that such "artists" are being revered for producing nothing of significance either musically or lyrically.
His lyrics say more than any other songwriter's can and the feeling he puts into singing them would send shivers down anyone's spine. As I once read somewhere, "Dylan on a bad day outclasses most other musicians' masterpieces" - "And every one of them words rang true And glowed like burnin' coal Pourin' off of every page Like it was written in my soul from me to you, Tangled up in blue."
Andy Diamond, UK
His legacy - simple, that you can look like a real muppet and still be called "the best ever"!!
Before Bob Dylan came along rock & roll was stuck in its adolescent hand-holding phase. He showed a generation of performers, writers and fans that rock & roll could grow up.
Donald Klees, USA
Musical appreciation is a matter of personal taste. Myself, I don't particularly like Dylan's stuff, and I don't even like the Beatles! However, I'm prepared to believe that there are others out there with views different to mine. Personally, I think Bono of U2 took rock to a new level, and Bowie can never be beaten!
Bob is good, but no more than a raw poet who can hang his words to a few simple melodies and the same four chords. Lennon and McCartney, (partly due to being European) can claim the prize for turning popular music into an art form. People should also remember that songwriting is about also about music and how words and music provide for each other. In this respect McCartney is the greatest songwriter and along with Lennon has influenced popular music the most.
In the year 2041, who will our children be celebrating? Certainly not the collection of manufactured no-talent individuals of today!
What separates Dylan from
other songwriters is the
sheer magnitude of his
songbook and the fact that the
quality of the songs sustains
such a high standard from beginning
When the history of 20th century popular music comes to be written from a perspective more distant than ours, two figures will stand out, to whom all the others will be seen as footnotes of greater or lesser import: Sinatra will be one and Dylan will be the other.
Bob Dylan may be allegedly the greatest songwriter ever, but he's certainly lacking on the performance front. David Bowie knocks him into a cocked hat any day of the week for sheer musical skill, showmanship and flair. In another poll done by Virgin.Net, Dylan ranks a poor fifth when it comes to naming the greatest rockers ever, so I guess it depends on the criteria you use. Personally, Dylan bores me rigid with his self-indulgent lyrical apathy.
Shiran Vyasa, Sri Lanka/ Canada
The clichéd answer is that by marrying electric guitar with serious lyrics he invented modern rock. True as this is, for me though it's just the power and beauty of his own lyrics that stand as his greatest legacy.
Wasn't he on the Magic Roundabout??
The greatest??? The man can't sing, insists on using a mouth organ at every opportunity with the objective presumably being to make the foulest, most unpleasant noise possible!!! And most importantly what is going on with his hair???
Give me Abba any day. The BBs wrote great songs and the AAs performed them perfectly.
Since 1964 I have really needed no other music - the Beatles, Stones, Hendrix, Sinatra, Madonna et al just pass alongside. Happy birthday and thank God for Dylan!
24 May 01 | Music
Bob Dylan turns 60
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