Friday, June 16, 2006

What'd He Sing?

A moderator of a writing group I belong to -- Southern Humorists -- posted a short column seeking comments and suggestions about his thoughts on Bob Dylan.

With the possible exception of some of the chronology he used (I'm not a trivia buff on the man, so I couldn't critique that), there wasn't anything he wrote I didn't tend to agree with. But what I also think on this subject is this: musical taste is subjective, period.

Whether you listen to Beethoven, Bob Seeger, Enya, Bob Dylan, The Bee Gees, Foreigner, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Toby Keith, The Dipsey Chicks, Nine Inch Nails or Icewhatever, your taste is personal and subjective, period. Because you listen to one genre over another, and omit certain genre, means nothing in my book. It's personal choice, nothing more or less.

I know some folks who figure a person's politics are revealed in their music. If you've read much of this hyar blog or my website, you'd conclude certain things about me from a political/ideological point of view, some of which is probably right (no pun intended). Then I'd go and confound you with the following statement (if you buy into the music/politics hooey): I like Bob Dylan's music.

And you might think, "Huh?".

I'm a late Baby Boomer. I began listening to rock and roll in the early 60s, when I wasn't in the car ('cuz my folks hated R&R, and listened to country, which drove us kids crazy). Bob Dylan got his start about then. A prolific performer, song writer and balladeer, in 1965 he wrote and sang what has made many lists*as the greatest song ever, Like A Rolling Stone. I was 8 at the time; I had no idea then what the song was supposed to signify. I could of cared less what it was supposed to signify. I only knew I liked how it sounded, period.

I still do.

His singing? Eh. He was okay in the aforementioned. I didn't recognize him initially when I first heard his Lay Lady Lay. I found his Knocking On Heaven's Door haunting. He sounded like classic Dylan singing I Want You, Positively 4th Street, and Just Like A Woman. With other songs he personally penned and orchestrated...ack. With Mr. Tamborine Man, My Back Pages and It Ain't Me Babe, Dylan was better as writer than vocalist; the Byrds and Turtles did much better with them.

In a high school English Composition class, we were tasked to take a song and analyze the lyrics; my first thought was, "ack phooey". What I chose, of all things, was Dylan's My Back Pages. First I had to find the lyrics; then I had to figure out what I thought they meant. I had no clue.

I got an 'A' on the paper; my instructor embarrassed me by posting it for all who entered the classroom to read.

What I wrote was my first example of what I'd be doing later online: logical-sounding (sorta) gibberish. I still have no clue what that song was saying. But being the 'instant gratification' sort back then, I happily accepted the 'A'.

In later years, I found Dylan sounding vocally more and more like two cats fighting piano innards with baseball bats. In other words, he sang like Ozzy Osbourne talked: a mix of pidgeon-German and Mandarin Chinese, after an all-night alcohol binge.

Nonetheless, I know that Bob Dylan had quite an impact in the music industry: many of the songs he wrote became top hits for other groups, as aforementioned. His music is as popular today as 40 years ago, if not his personal performances of it.

It's the music of my youth. Music I continue to enjoy today, if not his personal performances of it.

I still don't go in much for trying to discern the meaning of the lyrics; I just know I like the music that props them up. Other than Everybody Must Get Stoned, that is: I didn't like it then, I don't like it now. I mean, I could easily rewrite the lyrics and it'd still mean the same thing to me:

They'll stone you when you wire brush the cat,
they'll stone you if you fart, you're old, you're fat
They'll stone you if you dodge highway speed bumps,
they'll stone you if you violate tree stumps,
but I would not mind if I were cloned,
so the bunch of me could just get stoned *eeeh haw*

If I could take my recording of Dylan's Just Like A Woman, and edit out just his vocals, I'd do that as well. What the lyrics are supposed to mean, I don't know or care; the musical arrangement itself is fabulous (if you can listen to the original version and try to forget the words, you might hear what I mean).

So, for you musical purists out there, that's my subjective opinion. Like it or trash it, as you will; feel free to give me hell if you think I'm wrong. You'll find I can take the criticisms, since to me they'll sound like cats beating a piano into submission with bats.

* subjective opinions from musicians, critics, etc.


Anonymous Stacy said...

I got a kick out of your tale of the high school assignment and your method of "logical sounding gibberish." I never had a name for it, I tended to call it BSing, but that is pretty much the same technique that got me through all my English and journalism classes. Sorry to say I don't think I ever finished the assigned reading in college, but I managed to blather my way to A's and my prof's used them as examples. I also never ever wrote a rough draft of anything. I put paper in the typewriter (hey, it was the early 80's) and made it up as I went along...usually the night before it was due.

15 June, 2006 21:33  
Blogger Miss Cellania said...

AHA! So you're older than me!

But not by much.

16 June, 2006 06:13  
Blogger Monica said...

I've always liked Bob Dylan. My absolute favorite song by ANYONE in the entire world though is REO Speedwagon's Can't Fight This Feeling (I have it as my ringtone). But if I could only listen to ONE musical person/group for the rest of my life and had to choose carefully so I wouldn't get sick of it? It would be The Carpenters.

16 June, 2006 07:53  
Blogger Karen said...

Dylan is extremely talented and was never afraid to have his own style - I like that. I like his son as well, he's part of the Wallflowers and they've got that certain something.

16 June, 2006 08:29  
Blogger Ms. Vickie said...

Geeze another reminder of my age but what a great way to reminde me :)

Thanks for my B-day wish yesterday.

16 June, 2006 15:57  

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