What Bob Dylan Means To Me (part 1)

(Above: “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35” from Woodstock ’94.)

This is the first installment of what will hopefully be an ongoing feature. I asked a lot of my friends to write about their introduction or experiences with Bob Dylan’s music. The goal is to show that Dylan belongs to the ages, not just the Baby Boomers, but the effect is a series of testimonies.

Brad S., a recent transplant to Los Angeles, kicks off the series. 

Dylan’s one of those guys like Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, and Nick Cave: old songwriting warhorses that mostly fly under the radar of popular culture but are revered by nearly everyone who is into music. These musicians have been creating for so long, their bodies of work so varied, yet their number of “hits” are so slight, that each new listener is likely to come away with a completely different set of songs that they deem best. I think I first got hip to Dylan after really getting into the Beatles. Learning that they were contemporaries and that Dylan had an influence on them made me think “Okay, clearly he’s worth checking out.” So I picked up a cassette of “Blonde on Blonde” and …
Hated it.
Except for “Rainy Day Women,” a sentiment that any high school boy can get behind. But the rest of it was so different than the ‘60’s pop that I was just getting into. My musical appreciation still had some developing to do. And I did keep the cassette, maybe anticipating this. And by the time I was a sophomore in college and got a CD player (that is so weird to actually type out), I got Dylan’s Greatest Hits 1 and 2 and I would gradually immerse myself more and more into his music.
Weirdly enough, the element that most people hate about Dylan is one of my favorite elements: his voice. Given that I’m also a Tom Waits fan, I clearly have a tolerance for voices that aren’t “pretty.” I think these gravelly/nasally/whatever voices underscore a rootsy, naturalistic, non-refined, unpretentious core with which their subject matter often explores. 


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