I recently picked up the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Tribute concert DVD. Dunno why they kept us waiting 22 years, but it was worth the wait.
Great performances by an all-start cast. And some of the best songs ever written.
I watched the DVD with someone who’s a little younger than me, who asked, “What’s the big deal about Dylan anyway?” The question was influenced by this person’s limited exposure to Dylan, which is mostly latter day Dylan, the cat with the cartoonish voice, dark sound and suicidal lyrics.
But that’s not the Dylan I know. Well, I do, and I think he’s kinda cool too (in his own way).
Anyway, I responded, “Just listen! Look who’s on the stage!” A substantial number of my favourite artists, some of the most successful of all time, were influenced by Bob Dylan. They said as much, and they proved their assertion in their renditions of his songs.
More than any other artist, Dylan is the link that connects our modern music – and culture – with the past. Sure, Clapton and Page dug out some blues gems. Yes, The Beatles and The Stones played Nashville, Motown and Memphis with conviction.
But Dylan is the conduit. Delta Blues, Hillbilly folk, sea shanties, gospel, ballads, poems, stories … It was as if he had absorbed a dozen working-man’s cultures, and poured it out into the modern world. Folk, rock and roll, soul, blues rock, R&B, folk rock … he’s touched it all, and shown us where it all came from.
And he spoke the truth, fearlessly. It’s too bad we stopped listening. We better start swimming.