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  1.  (9890.1)
    My local college radio station mentioned on its website that today is Bob Dylan's 70th birthday. They plan to celebrate the occasion by playing performances of Dylan's songs.

    Yet, though Dylan's 1960s songs are a cherished part of my music collection, I never got into his material of recent decades. So perhaps more musically savvy Whitechapelers can answer this question: Does Dylan's music still matter given rock's developments or should he be relegated to the fond memory stockpile?
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeMay 24th 2011
    Gotta say, I've never got Bob Dylan or even really found any appreciation for his position in pop culture. Maybe it's just something I've missed or I'm missing something, I dunno. Just doesn't work for me.
    • CommentTimeMay 24th 2011
    @Oddcult you are not alone, I appreciate what he has done but I cannot listen to him.
  2.  (9890.4)
    @Miranda's Eyes: Don't bother. Most of the stuff 70-74 and at least 95% of everything post 1978 is bollocks. There are a few great tracks on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 like Blind Willie McTell and Series of Dreams, but it's not worth it overall. It's nothing to do with rock's developments, and everything to do with Dylan just being crap now. Still, Freewheelin, Times They Are a-Changin', Another Side, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Blood on the Tracks, Desire and Street Legal all range from great to perfection. That's a pretty amazing amount of essential listening, even if once he found God it all went to shite.
  3.  (9890.5)
    As a fan? Yes.

    At my father's funereal, a newer Dylan song was played between Fleetwood Mac's Hypnotize and Savoy Brown's Hellbound Train. When the Deal Goes Down played which came out in 2006. My father, who passed in 2007, had followed Dylan throughout the decades and still picked up his newer work while including current artists.

    @ mybrainhurts; Dylan is ancient as he was part of an era of Folk (poets with guitars) and that period is done. I don't know if you can apply rock developments with someone who still keeps true to his lyrical work. Dylan never played like Lennon or Morrison (Jim and Van). It wasn't about expanding. It is getting the sound and the words together. Which is why I settled with "As a fan, yes."

    There's plenty of room to not like Dylan. There's plenty of room to dislike newer work by any artist that once soared the charts. However, my favorite Dylan song is Masters of War and there is nothing pop about it yet it was written at his singles height.
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeMay 24th 2011 edited
    I swear, every time I see this thread, I misread it "Bob Dylan Dies at 70."

    Like a lot of kids who grew up in the nineties, I was introduced to his son, Jakob, as the lead singer of the Wallflowers, before I'd ever heard of this Bob guy. It's a little odd - I still think of him as Jakob Dylan's dad before I think of anything else.

    That said, "Tombstone Blues" is more or less the perfect song to listen to while driving down a long stretch of Midwestern highway.

    I'm often confused about the idea that some music is "irrelevant" or "outdated." I know many songs (particularly Dylan's most famous ones) were written for the time they were written in, and probably had more of an impact then as well, but if nothing else, they serve as excellent time capsules for a time and place. As far as I can tell, Bob Dylan is still encapsulating this time and place (whatever it is) very well, and as long as he's still doing that, he'll still be "important" to music.
  4.  (9890.7)
    @jackcrowder: If an artist keeps producing good music, then he stays good and relevant. Every Tom Waits album is a real event because he's managed to keep producing great music. I've listened to all of Dylan's albums at least once and the 80s albums are just terrible, and I say this as a huge fan. His later work is not worth listening to, not because music developed and he didn't, but because he started making boring plodding crap with an over-reliance on female backing vocals and far less lyrical invention or rigour than he previously used. I think he's shit now. He's been shit for a long time. I don't feel the need to apologise or excuse the fact that he stopped making good music and I think saying that "as a fan" he's still worth listening to cheapens the achievement of his best work. The last couple albums were not as bad as he was at one point, but they're still a million miles away from Blood on the Tracks or Freewheelin or Highway 61.

    At his best, Dylan was capable of writing songs that immediately sound as though they're ancient or still sound like they're fresh and raw. There aren't many songwriters who've ever been in that league. I was in a music shop the other day and Tangled Up in Blue came on the speakers and I stood there for the whole song listening to it because it's such an astonishing song. Some art is undiminished by time, and Dylan's best is like that. I don't think Visions of Johanna, Like a Rolling Stone, Chimes of Freedom or You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go will ever sound outdated and irrelevant.

    You can try out his newer stuff if you want, and maybe some people are into it, but I always feel that it's given credence more from nostalgia and appreciation of who he was rather than who he is. I wouldn't spend money on it before you've heard it. My advice? Pick up a Jason Webley or a Slim Cessna or a Mountain Goats or a Mischief Brew album instead.
  5.  (9890.8)
    I saw him live a about 8-9 years ago - extremely disappointed. Honestly, I've always considered him to be far too I'ma go back to my hole and listen to some Leonard Cohen.
    • CommentAuthorMathias B
    • CommentTimeMay 24th 2011
    Dylan recorded two albums worth of really sparse, acoustic renditions of old folk songs in the early 90's: Good as I Been to You & World Gone Wrong. For my money, they're among the best records he's EVER made. I like Time Out of Mind (1997) a lot, too.
    • CommentTimeMay 25th 2011 edited
    Dylan is a gifted artist, but his cultural relevance is long past. I'd like to see him pursue the path that Johnny Cash did, working in collaboration with contemporary artists who can benefit from his gravitas, or releasing cover versions of modern classics.
    • CommentAuthormanglr
    • CommentTimeMay 25th 2011
    I'm not enough of a Dylan expert to comment on much of his later output...but, I'd put 'Blind Willie McTell' right up there with his classic stuff if you're looking to cherry pick something off of his 1980s backcatalog.
    • CommentAuthorMathias B
    • CommentTimeMay 25th 2011
    As for the "relevance" thing... Bob Dylan actually did try to collaborate with contemporary artists and sound modern at one point - in the 1980's. The result was a series of records even most diehard Dylanites find unlistenable. His strength today, the way I see it, lies in the fact that he's not even trying to fit into any pop/rock music format. He's obviously just reconnected with the kind of music he started out playing - folk, country, blues - and keeps on touring and recording, constantly. Because that's who he is, that's what he does. Although I certainly don't love everything he puts out nowadays, it's hard to think of a more dignified way of maintaining a career into your 70's.