I’ve done a poor job of balancing out actual classics in this segment with albums that are classics in my mind within the alternative music mindset. You should be aware of who Bob Dylan is and what he has done, though I suppose you never know in a world where “Who Is Paul McCartney” exists. Dylan is the premier folk artist pretty much without a doubt, the man who defined the genre and inspired countless artists from the 1960s until today. As his career progressed Dylan’s sound did as well, with him experimenting within different genres including rock and blues, but a look back to his 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan does a great job of outlying his talent in the traditional folk sense which captures him at his best.
The main drawing point of Dylan is in his lyrics and diction. He’s got a special talent to convey his messages in a very declarative way while also keeping his audience wide, such as the line “Even Jesus would never forgive what you do” in “Masters of War”. He states his hatred, but it’s delivered like a truth of the world rather than an artist’s opinion, a power which really helped Dylan in becoming a voice of social reasoning. This separation from the artist even while he sings about his own travels is important, as a song like “Blowin’ in the Wind” suddenly becomes relatable to everyone and their own struggles in morality with current issues. You can’t become an icon if people aren’t able to relate to you, and Dylan made sure that people would be able to.
One of the special delivery styles of Dylan can be seen in songs like “Bob Dylan’s Blues” and “Talking World War III Blues” where Dylan is more telling a story than singing a song. There’s relatable language, conscious thoughts about the process, and non-traditional song structure which frees up Dylan to tell as many stories as he’d like. It never brings up a difficult meaning to decipher either, as the way that Dylan gets to that point in such a clearly stated and truthful way is immensely talented and easily enjoyed. He sings about religion, relationships, and social topics such as war and race which stay relevant even today as his viewpoints still sound true, such as a personal favorite “Half of the people can be part right all of the time, and some of the people can be all right part of the time, but all of the people can’t be all right all of the time. I think Abraham Lincoln said that. ‘I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours.’ I said that“.
It’s ok if you aren’t a Dylan fanatic, because I wouldn’t personally describe myself as one either, but you need to have immense respect for him whether it’s for his music or the influence that he’s had on other artists. That’s something which isn’t really up for debate given his impact on modern music.
Track Picks: Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright; Blowin In The Wind; Talkin World War III Blues