This week, bob Dylan turned 75 years old. I know this because everyone on the planet seems to be posting about it on social media. From ranking his albums and songs, to attempting to decipher the meaning behind his lyrics, there is no question Dylan has had a huge impact on music and pop culture.
And for the most part, I can’t stand the guy. But, before you gather the townfolk with torches and pitchforks, let me say that no matter how much snark I have thrown at the guy over the years, I do respect his talents. His music, it just isn’t my thing. I know as a Minnesotan, I’m not suppose to utter things like that, but it’s how I feel.
I grew up in a family where my dad nearly worshiped the troubadour from Duluth, and my mom couldn’t stand a note of his music. I took after my mom in this regard, because no matter how much I tried, I just never cared for a majority of his music. He has one album I do enjoy, “Bringing It All Back Home,” which to this day I can listen to and not feel bored or indifferent. But that is one album out of 37. Not exactly making the top of any list of mine anytime soon.
And before you want to argue, let me just say I have listened to almost every one of his albums. I spent a decade working in record stores, and an important part of that job is becoming familiar to as much music as you can. I can name songs off certain albums of Dylan’s that I enjoy, but I just don’t give a damn about his music for the most part. One album and a handful of songs are what I enjoy from Bob. The rest? I have no desire to listen to it again.
It isn’t even the singing, as seems to be an issue with many people. I listen to Tom Waits and Neil Young, two singers who are known for unique voices much like Dylan is. I guess I just do not connect to most of his material. And he has a lot of material out there, different phases in his career, he is all over the map. I respect that. I respect any artist brave enough to switch gears and do something new. I just happen to not care for most of these Dylan phases. I always thought there would be one I would be into, and if there is one, it is probably his weird mid-to-late 60s stuff. But I don’t even care for a majority of that.
Perhaps what has jaded me the most about Dylan isn’t even Bob himself. Sure, I find his whole “I’m an enigma wrapped in a riddle” persona grating, but the real culprit to cause my disdain is the music history revisionists over at Rolling Stone magazine and others who seem to go out of their way and defend every garbage album Dylan has put out — sometimes even decades after panning them. When the “Self Portrait” bootleg series installment came out, for instance, all of a sudden people who (correctly) hated the original “Self Portrait” album suddenly loved it. It rubbed me the wrong way.
Listen, you can admit if an artist you enjoy falls short in quality from time to time. I am a huge fan of Pink Floyd, but I will be the first to tell you that “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” is pure garbage and that I think every copy of that album should be thrown into a massive bonfire, never to be heard again. But Rolling Stone can’t even admit anymore that when Dylan puts out a stinking pile of rubbish, that it is indeed garbage. His last album of cover songs of old standards, they gave it 3 and a half stars. Even his lamest attempts will not go below a 3-out-of-5 rating by them.
As much as I don’t care for his music, I do see and respect his ability to write music and lyrics that resonate with people. If it wasn’t for Dylan, a lot of my favorite artists might not put out the work they did. I don’t think we would have Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” or Springsteen’s “Born to Run” if Dylan hadn’t come around and put his mark on the music scene. There wouldn’t have been a Beatles “Rubber Soul” album. His influence on others is not lost on me. And I am grateful for how he revolutionized music.
The man is talented. He is also flawed. I see the appeal, and I am happy people find enjoyment in his music. I’m just one of those people who, for the most part, don’t.