Bob Dylan, The Greatest Posted On: Sept 23, 2012 15:21:39 GMT
Post by shenandoah on Sept 23, 2012 15:21:39 GMT
Really can't agree with the first part of what you've wrote, namely that he wasn't any better than his folk peers. At the time of his debut, a record that is only remarkable because of how completely average it is, he had nothing on what Dave Von Ronk did at that time - I'm sure Dylan would admit that.
Whatever happened in the year between his debut and The Freewheelin', it kicked a door open in Dylan's mind and from then on he was head and shoulders above anyone else in the Greenwich Village scene. The writing on the next 6 albums were lightyears ahead of any singer songwriter of those times. Although things clicked with the political thing, songs like Don't Think Twice, Girl From The North Country, One Too Many Mornings, Boots of Spanish Leather, Restless Farewell (all from the only two 'political' albums he made) don't have a political bone in them, but still completely brilliant songwriting.
In terms of him being a thief, that accusation has never totally stuck with me. He's nicked melodies from everywhere, but that's a given for any folkster. Most of the lyrics that people claim to have been plagiarised before Time Out Of Mind are just Dylan's modern takes on old tunes - changing more than enough to make them wholly his own work. It's only since Love & Theft really that he's lifted entire passages and can legitimately be accused of theft. The Japanese gangster book thing really is a headscratcher. Why he's done it I can only guess. He's a weird guy and maybe just gets kicks out of quoting obscure stuff just to see if people pick up on it. Probably should've credited it or referenced it at least, same with the Civil War poet guy, but who cares apart from the individuals involved.
Dylan, since I've started reading his interviews + autobiography, has always paid homage to his musical influences, more than other artists that I like. Also his theme-time radio program is basically hour long shows giving credit to his influences. If by giving credit, 'as proper folk tradition', you mean actually listing the source material in the credits, then you're completely wrong. The traditional has always allowed people to steal and borrow where you can.
p.s John Wesley Harding is one of his best records ;D
I named Van Ronk just to mention someone on whose sofa Dylan has slept and got a few tricks from (legend says that no one in the Greenwich Village beside Van Ronk wanted Dylan around cos he was known for stealing other people's material ehe, though it's hard to believe Dylan was such a git ).
The first record is a generic folksinger album from that time - it might not borrow from Van Ronk directly (Van Ronk was already a formed expert with a style of his own by that time, you couldn't really steal that). Even the big hits of his early records, I honestly don't find them spectacular. His vocal style, he lifted from someone else...fine, you were allowed to do that. Melodies were lifted aswell, fine. Mind you, I think those records were excellent records in their own genre, but if it wasn't for the protest movement who elevated them to generational hymns (of which Dylan couldn't care less cos he knows nothing about politics by his own admission) they would have stayed what they are: excellent records in their own genre.
The following records are awesome...seems to me that Dylan had matured from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan overnight. Reminds me of Robert Johnson. From 64 to 66 he had an incredible run of records...the strange thing is how seemingly effortless he wrote those songs that were already epic from the day they were released.
John Wesley Harding I always found rather dull...few excellent moments but overall it is an album Dylan would have done in his sleep. But of course by that time Dylan was already a messiah and no-one would have dared to call one of his records "mediocre". Nashville Skyline is a nice little record but again, few superb moments and a lot of throwaway material on that. Though there's nothing really exciting or original in those records, the american critics loved them and they got more credit then they deserved.
The point about plagiarism is that, because of his legendary status, people have stopped thinking of Bob Dylan just as a songwriter and started considering him as a messiah - so you know, discovering that Dylan has lifted half a record from 1880s tunes and half the lyrics from pre-civil war poems is a bit like catching the Dalai Lama lifting stuff verbatim from the bible.
but he's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy.