Dylan’s singing voice, at which most “kids these days” will smirk when they hear him for the first time – as Robbie Robertson said about him, “He is a powerful singer and a great musical actor, with many characters in his voice.” Back when causes were causes and singers truly knew how to act with their voice: give a vocal performance, show emotion, give character to a song – not just show your mid-drift and bounce around on the stage – Bob Dylanuses his voice not just to sing, but to add to the message and the song. Baby-faced kid to paternal icon of the music industry, Bob Dylan’s musical influence and impact is enormous.
If you’re new to Bob Dylan (which would just be strange, but hey, it happens), I’d say start not even by listening, but just by understanding how muh work and how many songs Dylan has written: 458 songs. And that’s most likely a low estimate given extremely adaptations and re-writes of song for live performances and Dylan collaborations like the Traveling Wilburys.
So before listening you know the man has some things to say and a medium of music through which he’s been saying them since the 1960′s. Lots and lots of albums and songs Bob Dylan has written.
And when it comes to Bob Dylan’s influence on music, particular other bands and artists since he first came on the stage the list is comprehensive. Of course, hardly any musician who has done their homework would say that Bob has in some way (usually with his lyrics) have an impact on their songwriting in some way, but one way to measure is to gauge who records a cover of one songs. Bob Dylan’s musical influence cannot be over-estimated.
In my memory, one of the most covered Bob Dylan songs is Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. (Seriously, check out that link to see how many times that song is on last.fm by different recording artists.) A song that just keeps being recorded in the studio and even more during live concerts over and over by famous and not-so-famous musicians alike of just about every music genre you can imagine.
What separates a musician like Bob Dylan from the mass of others is that he says something about people, society, and just about anything else he might want to comment on when he grabs a pencil or sits down and an old type writer to write lyrics for a song. Unlike most artists, Bob Dylan is quotable. He (literally) is a poet, not just a songwriter. Bob Dylan quotes cover everything from comments about himself to America, music, art, and society at large. For example, the below Bob Dylan quote from December 1963 in an address to the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee after receiving the organization’s Tom Paine Award “in recognition of distinguished service in the fight for civil liberty”
“There’s no black and white, left and right to me anymore; there’s only up and down and down is very close to the ground. And I’m trying to go up without thinking about anything trivial such as politics. They has got nothing to do with it. I’m thinking about the general people and when they get hurt.”
Dylan came from humble beginnings. Born in Duluth, MN, Bob Dylan (b. Robert Allen Zimmerman, May 24, 1941) was raised in Hibbing, MN, from the age of six. As a child he learned how to play guitar and harmonica, forming a rock & roll band called the Golden Chords when he was in high school. Following his graduation in 1959, he began studying art at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. While at college, he began performing folk songs at coffeehouses under the name Bob Dylan, taking his last name from the poet Dylan Thomas. Already inspired by Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie, Dylan began listening to blues while at college, and the genre wove its way into his music. He spent the summer of 1960 in Denver, where he met bluesmanJesse Fuller, the inspiration behind the songwriter’s signature harmonica rack and guitar. By the time he returned to Minneapolis in the fall, he had grown substantially as a performer and was determined to become a professional musician.
This audio is pretty cool if you have some time to plug in some speakers and listen for awhile. ”Bob Dylan: No Direction Home” is a two-hour, two-part music intensive radio special features exclusive music, interviews and other content from Bob Dylan’s personal archives. You’ll also hear music featured in “Bob Dylan: No Direction Home, a Martin Scorsese picture,”