Bob Dylan: Left of Center

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    Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    Bob Dylan, a central character in 60's culture and history. He was not British , so not part of the British Invasion. He was not on American Bandstand or the Ed Sullivan Show ( walked out during rehearsals). Was also not at woodstock ( turned down invitation because of his disgust of hippies hanging around his house).

    "All I can do is be me, whoever that is."

    He influenced virtually all rock artists from mid 1960's to now. Jefferson Airplane,The Doors, The Beatles, the Byrds, The Grateful Dead and many more , all owe a debt to Dylan.

    "Well, the future for me is already a thing of the past."

    Singer/songwriters became as common as the garage band by the early 70's ( perhaps more so), Joni Mitchell, Don McLean, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor,all were disciples of Bob Dylan.

    "I've never written a political song. Songs can't change the world. I've gone through all that."

    He is a 60's survivor. Not many of the central figures of that decade are still with us. John Lennon, JFK,Jim Morrison, Jerry Garcia, Richard Nixon, Martin Luther King, all dead. Charles Manson might as well be.

    "Being noticed can be a burden. Jesus got himself crucified becuse he got himself noticed. So, I disappear a lot."

    He's been on stage with many famous performers and rock stars. His writing style is evident in the works of Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp,Billy Joel,Tom Petty, Sting, Elvis Costello, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Melissa Etheridge and countless others.

    "I've dined with kings. I've been offered wings. And I've never been too impressed."

    "if you want me , you can find me, left of center off of the strip. In the ouskirts and in the fringes. In the corner out of the grip." -(from Left of Center' by Suzanne Vega.

    "People today are still living off the table scraps of the sixties. They are still being passed around -the music and the ideas."

    He reconizes his place in history but trivializes it.

    "If I wasn't Bob Dylan, I'd probably think that Bob Dylan has a lot of answers myself."

    His understanding of the human condition is his great strength.

    "People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient , then repent."

    Dylan is the glue that connects real life to rock music. Without Dylan , rock may have been a passing fad. Drivel set to a dance beat...like so much of today's pop music, like disco. There was no false idol worship, no screaming teenyboppers. No Dylanmania, no dolls, bubblegum cards or coloring books.Bob Dylan is substance without the flashy style. Image was a nonissue.He set poetry to music. He made you think. His words were sometimes plain and simple , sometimes a riddle.

    "Just because you like my stuff doesn't mean I owe you anything."

    Someday Bob Dylan will die. There will be a write up in the papers, internet chatter, T.V. will have biograpies of his life. He'll take his place in history and he will not be center stage ( where he probably should be) he'll be in the corner , in the fringes , left of center off of the strip. Never as famous as Elvis or the Beatles and the Stones.

    But, I am sure that's just they way Bob would want it. But, to me he'll always be the most powerful figure in the developemnet of rock from a lot of loud noise for teenagers to a social and cultural phenomen that just refuses to die.

    "The harmonica is the world's best selling musical instrument.  ---YOU'RE WELCOME."
     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    No further proof needed than the fact that Everybody seems to cover Dylan at some point - to varying degrees of success.  You can remove his voice from the song - often to the point of gratitude - but you can't remove the intent or spirit of the lyrics.

    Even so, there's something that sounds important, almost historic, about that first, hard snare shot on "Like A Rolling Stone" that never fails to give me chills.

    On that note, here's my shameless plug for "I'm Not There" - a great, sprawling film as well as a great, extremely entertaining soundtrack; cover artists range the gamut from Yo La Tengo to Sonic Youth to Mason Jennings to The Black Keys; includes several choice unreleased or rarely-heard tracks.  My favorites are "Goin' To Acapulco" (Jim James & Calexico), "Tombstone Blues" (Richie Havens), "Ring Them Bells" (Sufjan Stevens), "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" (Glen Mansard & Marketa Irglova) and "Pressing On" (John Doe) [this last one is mesmerizing].

    Talking about "lyric-centric" artists, Dylan stands tall on that front and nobody - not even Lennon/McCartney - comes close.  A true American icon.
     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    Bob Dylan - second only to the Beatles in overall influence of music of the last 50 years. Lennon and Dylan fed off each other on ways that we still cannot comprehend. I was never the biggest fan of Dylan the Rock and Roll musician. I was a huge fan of Dylan, the singer/songwriter.

    I don't care where Dylan stands. He will always be one of the cornerstones of RnR. And he will forever be the mind of the 60's.
     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    Overrated...I don't believe in Zimmerman. Wink

    Truthfully he's not one of my favorite musical artists (not counting other artists' versions), but he is indeed one of the great poets of the century at least.  I think maybe I'm jealous of the guy because of what he can do with words.  Musically I think he may have been at his strongest around the Blood on the Tracks album.
     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    Dylan is great, not that I like everything he's done.  He makes music that he wants to make and if people don't like - he doesn't care because he didn't do it for them.

    I've seen some great shows by Dylan and shows that I didn't care for, which is ok with me.  I risk an occassional bad performance if he counters it with 2 magical performances. 

    Dylan's music is real, from the heart. 

    I think an argument can be made that Dylan is one of, if not the greatest American Singer/Songwriter of his time.  No one has had the success that he's had for as long as he's had.
     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    The main theme of this post is not just how the songwriting and music of Bob Dylan is top notch. I think we all know that.

    Mainly, I was trying to use my own words and those of Dylan himself to reflect on how this great figure in rock history ( even though identified primarily as a '60's artist) continues to be an enigma.

    He does not crave the limelight, unlike others who lived the life of a superstar rocker and burned themselves out too soon, he is more like the true artist wanting his work to be the centerpiece , not himself. He seems almost devoid of ego. This is so rare in a performer of this magnitude.

    Years back , when I read a Dylan biography, I remember an incident that happened before he was famous. Performing his music in a small venue, Dylan was being heckled mercilessly from a man in the crowd. He did not acknowledge the heckler and continued to sing and play. After totally ignoring the heckler for quite some time , the heckler became irate that Dylan was not acknowledging him. Dylan continued to ignore him and the heckler got exasperated and walked out.

    So many pop stars with much less talent become infatuated with themselves and seek attention after having one or two hit songs. They seldom last too long. Dylan has a grasp on reality, he understands his contributions , he knows is name is known worldwide, but does not care to be a celebrity.He is not interested in whether you like it or not. Doesn't care what you think of him. He is doing a job he likes doing, he just wants to create his art. He is successful at it and that seems to be enough for him. He is at peace with his work.

    "Just because you like my stuff doesn't mean I owe you anything."

    More an artist than a performer.

     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    I am going to be somewhat contrarian here. I think Bob Dylan desired fame and notoriety as much if not more than many other musical performers. I am not convinced that he is any more artistically pure than a performer such as Chuck Berry who made no pretense about trying to please his audience and attract a following of teenagers. I think Dylan, due to his introverted personality, took a more indirect path to notoriety. Someone who has become as famous as he has definitely had some hand in purposely cultivating that fame. Many of the folk singers around when Dylan came on the scene never rose to the same heights of fame because they refused to compromise their "pure" folk artistry. Dylan was in it for the sex and the money as much as any other rock and roll performer.

    I really don't put much stock in judging an artist's motivations or purpose in creating their art. Great art can be created for any motivation: money, fame, sex, self-expression etc. in any combination. I judge the artistry apart from the artist, and divorce my opinion of any judgement of why they are creating their art. In my opinion, The Archies are as capable of creating great art as Dylan, and Dylan is just as capable of crass commercialism.
     
    In case it seems like I am saying Dylan is not an artist, that isn't my point. Rather, I am saying that I enjoy the artistry of a variety of performers, and do not deem one artist's work more true based on their fame or record sales.
     
    I do tend to lean toward tearing down idols and de-mystifying art and artists. These are human being after all, and their view is that of one person. I don't look for wisdom from people outside of me, but within myself and my observations of life. Bob Dylan entertains me, and sometimes impresses me with his word play. But to me, he is just as much a fame seeker as many performers, but has always attempted to achieve that fame on his terms. I see a huge ego in Dylan, but it is not manifested in the usual rock star clichés we see from someone like Mick Jagger. So in that way, Dylan is left of center.
     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    In Response to Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center:
    [QUOTE]Dylan was Jimi's favorite songwriter. Think about that the next time you watch Dylan being boo'd in Newport for playing an electric guitar
    Posted by GreginMeffa[/QUOTE]

    I dare say quite a few rock notables would say the same - Lennon, Young, Petty, Springsteen, just to name a few....
     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    In Response to Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center:
    [QUOTE]I am going to be somewhat contrarian here. I think Bob Dylan desired fame and notoriety as much if not more than many other musical performers. I am not convinced that he is any more artistically pure than a performer such as Chuck Berry who made no pretense about trying to please his audience and attract a following of teenagers. I think Dylan, due to his introverted personality, took a more indirect path to notoriety. Someone who has become as famous as he has definitely had some hand in purposely cultivating that fame. Many of the folk singers around when Dylan came on the scene never rose to the same heights of fame because they refused to compromise their "pure" folk artistry. Dylan was in it for the sex and the money as much as any other rock and roll performer. I really don't put much stock in judging an artist's motivations or purpose in creating their art. Great art can be created for any motivation: money, fame, sex, self-expression etc. in any combination. I judge the artistry apart from the artist, and divorce my opinion of any judgement of why they are creating their art. In my opinion, The Archies are as capable of creating great art as Dylan, and Dylan is just as capable of crass commercialism.   In case it seems like I am saying Dylan is not an artist, that isn't my point. Rather, I am saying that I enjoy the artistry of a variety of performers, and do not deem one artist's work more true based on their fame or record sales.   I do tend to lean toward tearing down idols and de-mystifying art and artists. These are human being after all, and their view is that of one person. I don't look for wisdom from people outside of me, but within myself and my observations of life. Bob Dylan entertains me, and sometimes impresses me with his word play. But to me, he is just as much a fame seeker as many performers, but has always attempted to achieve that fame on his terms. I see a huge ego in Dylan, but it is not manifested in the usual rock star clichés we see from someone like Mick Jagger. So in that way, Dylan is left of center.
    Posted by devildavid[/QUOTE]

    So, you are saying Dylan simply took a different route to his fame?

    This is an interesting point of view, I will have to digest this awhile. Thanks for the idea, I think you may have something there.
     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    In Response to Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center:
    [QUOTE]In Response to Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center : So, you are saying Dylan simply took a different route to his fame? This is an interesting point of view, I will have to digest this awhile. Thanks for the idea, I think you may have something there.
    Posted by ZILLAGOD[/QUOTE]

    Yes, pretty much, but he tries to control it more than most other performers do. When the fans tried to crown him a political activist folkie, he purposely changed direction to turn off that crowd and in doing so turned on the rock crowd. Then he went Christian to turn off everybody, but even that pulled in a new fan base. While the fans are searching for answers from him, he goes his own way searching for his own answers. But at the same time, he constantly tours and captures another segment of the audience as he hammers his new message home. In his meandering way, he has captured fans from across a wider spectrum than many other performers. I think he is aware of this on some level because he has never become totally obscure, like say a Graham Parker has. Funny thing is, Graham Parker burned to be a big rock star, but never quite made it. Sometimes the indirect route is more successful than the direct one.
     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    In Response to Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center:
    [QUOTE]In Response to Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center : Yes, pretty much, but he tries to control it more than most other performers do. When the fans tried to crown him a political activist folkie, he purposely changed direction to turn off that crowd and in doing so turned on the rock crowd. Then he went Christian to turn off everybody, but even that pulled in a new fan base. While the fans are searching for answers from him, he goes his own way searching for his own answers. But at the same time, he constantly tours and captures another segment of the audience as he hammers his new message home. In his meandering way, he has captured fans from across a wider spectrum than many other performers. I think he is aware of this on some level because he has never become totally obscure, like say a Graham Parker has. Funny thing is, Graham Parker burned to be a big rock star, but never quite made it. Sometimes the indirect route is more successful than the direct one.
    Posted by devildavid[/QUOTE]

    Graham Parker may have been "totally obsure" in the eyes of the public that follows the singles charts, top 40 and the music fans who only jump on the "trendy" and popular artists. 

    GP has never been obsure to me. I was totally knocked out when I first heard "Don't Ask Me Questions" and after that I couldn't get enough of his great music and the music of the Rumour ( they flew under the radar with 3 albums of their own, and these guys are terrific).

    My thread title "Left of Center" seems correct , though.

    Is there another rock star of this calibre that is quite like him?
     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    Graham Parker may have been "totally obsure" in the eyes of the public that follows the singles charts, top 40 and the music fans who only jump on the "trendy" and popular artists. 

    GP has never been obsure to me. I was totally knocked out when I first heard "Don't Ask Me Questions" and after that I couldn't get enough of his great music and the music of the Rumour ( they flew under the radar with 3 albums of their own, and these guys are terrific).

    My thread title "Left of Center" seems correct , though.

    Is there another rock star of this calibre that is quite like him?


    I am a huge fan of Graham Parker and I own every album he has put out. But that doesn't mean he isn't obscure. When it comes to fame, there is no comparison between Bob Dylan and Graham Parker. It is much harder to find non-rock fans who haven't heard of Dylan than of Parker. That is what I mean by obscure. I also think they are both great artists. But I don't think they are that far apart in seeking some amount of notoriety or "fame" in their career choices. Bob Dylan played a role in becoming as famous as he is. It would have been much easier for him to toil in obscurity creating great art than to do what he did. I don't believe anyone's art is so great that people will flock to them without the artist indulging in some amount of self-promotion. He very conciously made moves that made people notice him. I think that he is conflicted about his fame. When he finally got what he wanted, he may have found the flame of fame too hot to stand.
     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    I'm not trying to take anything away from Graham Parker, whom I enjoy a lot, but Dylan hit the stratosphere because he deserved to be there.  Graham, as good as he is (I really don't mean to diss him; he's good) just doesn't get as much from me as Dylan
     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    But at the same time, he constantly tours and captures another segment of the audience as he hammers his new message home. In his meandering way, he has captured fans from across a wider spectrum than many other performers. I think he is aware of this on some level because he has never become totally obscure

    So, you are saying Dylan simply took a different route to his fame?
    Is there another rock star of this calibre that is quite like him?
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Joni Mitchell, anyone?

    First of all, last year, I believe Joni Mitchell said something similar in an article in the LA Times (in more stark language) that DevilDavid is saying here.  She called Dylan a "fake" and a "fraud" and I now take it there is no love lost between the two.  I don't know what prompted her to come forward and make those accusations, and while I respect Dylan's musicianship, and I'm not what you'd call a Dylanophile, to say the least, but perhaps the main point is that Dylan's influence on American music is his truest legacy, not his lack of desire for or the way he shunned fame. 

    Additionally, even though she does not like to be called the female counterpart to Dylan as a musician, many think she is. 
     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    In Response to Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center:
    [QUOTE]But at the same time, he constantly tours and captures another segment of the audience as he hammers his new message home. In his meandering way, he has captured fans from across a wider spectrum than many other performers. I think he is aware of this on some level because he has never become totally obscure So, you are saying Dylan simply took a different route to his fame? Is there another rock star of this calibre that is quite like him? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Joni Mitchell, anyone? First of all, last year, I believe Joni Mitchell said something similar in an article in the LA Times (in more stark language) that DevilDavid is saying here.  She called Dylan a "fake" and a "fraud" and I now take it there is no love lost between the two.  I don't know what prompted her to come forward and make those accusations, and while I respect Dylan's musicianship, and I'm not what you'd call a Dylanophile, to say the least, but perhaps the main point is that Dylan's influence on American music is his truest legacy, not his lack of desire for or the way he shunned fame.  Additionally, even though she does not like to be called the female counterpart to Dylan as a musician, many think she is. 
    Posted by yogafriend[/QUOTE]

    A fascinating counterpoint, to say the least.

    Here you have two people who are arguably two of the most important artists of the last 50 years but who have, by their own designs, taken different routes through the gauntlet of fame and yet still maintained in most eyes the integrity of their earlier, most famous work.

    (I'll say here, as an aside, that I consider Dylan more of a songwriter and Joni Mitchell as more of the whole package.  In terms of overall musicianship, I don't think Dylan can match her.  But I don't think that's why they don't 'get along' or whatever.  I mean, they've toured together in the past.)

    But here is where the trouble starts, because ego becomes a part of the discussion.  Artists have egos because it's part of the job; the goal is to present their work so people can see/hear it.  Even not having an ego requires an ego, and it's the reason why "it's all about the music" is somewhat of a cliche.

    What I see in Joni Mitchell, though, is the minimum of ego while still being a strong, capable artist; it's still there but masked somehow.  With Dylan, the ego has always been there near the surface, even when he or others denied it.  But they're both human, and with the praise heaped upon them so profusely, it's not really a surprise.  Maybe Joni thought that Bob let his ego get the best of him to the point where maybe he sacrificed some integrity as an artist...?

    Funny thing is, she may be one of the few people in the world so uniquely, professionally qualified to speak on the matter with any authority.

    (P.S.  I saw her in the 90s, and while she played a few of her 'hits', she seemed to relish in NOT playing them the way we were used to hearing them.  Intensely laid-back, if that makes any sense.)
     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    In Response to Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center:
    [QUOTE]Graham Parker may have been "totally obsure" in the eyes of the public that follows the singles charts, top 40 and the music fans who only jump on the "trendy" and popular artists.  GP has never been obsure to me. I was totally knocked out when I first heard "Don't Ask Me Questions" and after that I couldn't get enough of his great music and the music of the Rumour ( they flew under the radar with 3 albums of their own, and these guys are terrific). My thread title "Left of Center" seems correct , though. Is there another rock star of this calibre that is quite like him? I am a huge fan of Graham Parker and I own every album he has put out. But that doesn't mean he isn't obscure. When it comes to fame, there is no comparison between Bob Dylan and Graham Parker. It is much harder to find non-rock fans who haven't heard of Dylan than of Parker. That is what I mean by obscure. I also think they are both great artists. But I don't think they are that far apart in seeking some amount of notoriety or "fame" in their career choices. Bob Dylan played a role in becoming as famous as he is. It would have been much easier for him to toil in obscurity creating great art than to do what he did. I don't believe anyone's art is so great that people will flock to them without the artist indulging in some amount of self-promotion. He very conciously made moves that made people notice him. I think that he is conflicted about his fame. When he finally got what he wanted, he may have found the flame of fame too hot to stand.
    Posted by devildavid[/QUOTE]

    Absolutley no comparison fame wise, Dylan is world famous, crosses over age groups, etc.

    We live in a time when "stars" and "famous people" are as common as ants in my backyard in the summertime.  Graham Parker may not be anywhere near as famous as Dylan but I think he would be far from "obsure."

    Case in point we have a failed Tea Party Candidate, Christine O'Donnell saying she has been asked to be a contestant on 'Dancing with the Stars.'
    In my mind Christine O'Donnell is only slghtly more well known than Fred O'Donnell a guy who played Leftwing for the Bruins back in the early 70's.

    Does having your name in the news for a few weeks make a person a "star?" ....can we get back to reality in this society or is every person who makes a small ripple in politics, Reality T.V. and pop music instantly a star?

    The average guy on the street may not know Graham Parker, but amongst Rock fans , I hardly think we can call him "obscure."

    Now , I don't say Dylan didn't embrace the fame to some extent.  But is his celebrity status more important to him than the integrity of his art?...as is the case with so many who compromise and do what's trendy? Dylan, to me never did what was "trendy", he almost never did what his fans expected. When they wanted the folksinger, he went electric, when they wanted political songs , he gave them nonpolitical songs. When people expect one thing he has constantly followed his own agenda.
     
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    Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center

    In Response to Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center:
    [QUOTE]In Response to Re: Bob Dylan: Left of Center : A fascinating counterpoint, to say the least. Here you have two people who are arguably two of the most important artists of the last 50 years but who have, by their own designs, taken different routes through the gauntlet of fame and yet still maintained in most eyes the integrity of their earlier, most famous work. (I'll say here, as an aside, that I consider Dylan more of a songwriter and Joni Mitchell as more of the whole package.  In terms of overall musicianship, I don't think Dylan can match her.  But I don't think that's why they don't 'get along' or whatever.  I mean, they've toured together in the past.) But here is where the trouble starts, because ego becomes a part of the discussion.  Artists have egos because it's part of the job; the goal is to present their work so people can see/hear it.  Even not having an ego requires an ego, and it's the reason why "it's all about the music" is somewhat of a cliche. What I see in Joni Mitchell, though, is the minimum of ego while still being a strong, capable artist; it's still there but masked somehow.  With Dylan, the ego has always been there near the surface, even when he or others denied it.  But they're both human, and with the praise heaped upon them so profusely, it's not really a surprise.  Maybe Joni thought that Bob let his ego get the best of him to the point where maybe he sacrificed some integrity as an artist...? Funny thing is, she may be one of the few people in the world so uniquely, professionally qualified to speak on the matter with any authority. (P.S.  I saw her in the 90s, and while she played a few of her 'hits', she seemed to relish in NOT playing them the way we were used to hearing them.  Intensely laid-back, if that makes any sense.)
    Posted by MattyScornD[/QUOTE] Funny thing is that because of this thread, and the mention of Joni Mitchell, my eyes fell on a copy of "Blue" recently (a very good deal) and I snatched it right up.   So here we go: the forum rocks and it's working "offline" for me.

    Now for the issue of musicians and ego being part of the "job" -- well said!  Even if the issue of ego is under cover, and seemingly under control, that may well be contrived, and I think that's what some of us were getting at with regard to Dylan. 

    But it seems until the bitter end of this thread, Zilla was going to be damned if he admitted that Dylan was anything but truly and sincerely "left of center" -- and I'm not so sure others of us agree, at least not with such passion, or without caveats. 

    Since he's away, I thought I'd get another word in edge-wise.  In any event, a great discussion.  :)

     

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