Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My Favorites By the Nobel Winner

According to Wikipedia, Bob Dylan has a collection of 522 songs he has written.

We can often accuse Dylan of not singing as we normally think of it. He has a way of using the sound of words to build the emotion and movement. The rhythm of the words is as important as the musical movement.

Hence, in my opinion, the Nobel Prize for Literature is well-deserved. He is a poetic wordsmith that allows music to flow from the words. I have not idea, of course, when Dylan started with the words and when he started with the music. Whichever might come first the connection between the two is always in service of the words. Sometimes, especially in the truly iconic songs, the music may seem trite, the words cliched. But that is only due to the fact that these were there at the creation. In fact, these types of songs ARE the creation story.

First, though, I listed my favorites. I wanted to give my top 5. Didn't work. I easily came up with my top 6. (It's impossible to stop at 1, 3, or 5.) Needless to say they are from after his move into rock. Some of his most powerful- and also among my top favorites- are before that. The words, the sounds, the fun of the first three move into into three songs that moved me internally, numbers 4 - 6. Then I wanted my top 10. Just as impossible to do. But what about...? After that it was how they came to me. It was easier to stop at 20. Hence this list:
  1. Rainy Day Women #12 and 35 (1966)
  2. Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965)
  3. Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
  4. Knockin' on Heaven's Door (1973)
  5. All Along the Watchtower (1967)
  6. Forever Young (1974)
  7. I Shall Be Released (1971)
  8. Gotta Serve Somebody (1979)
  9. God Gave Names to All the Animals (1979)
  10. Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
  11. Masters of War (1963)
  12. A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall (1963)
  13. Chimes of Freedom (1964)
  14. Shelter from the Storm (1975) 
  15. Duquesne Whistle (2012)
  16. Thunder on the Mountain (2006)
  17. Everything is Broken (1989)
  18. The Levee's Gonna Break (2006) 
  19. Maggie's Farm (1965)
  20. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum (2001)
There are three songs conspicuously missing from that list. These are the obvious songs. These are the songs that go beyond "favorites" into the realm of the iconic, cultural stepping stones, music-changing music. These are THE creation songs I referenced above. Even if I didn't like them, which I do, they are here forever, as essential as any music ever written. In chronological order:
  • Blowin' In the Wind-1963
  • The Times They are A-Changing-1964
  • Like A Rolling Stone-1965
I will be putting together several more posts on these 23 songs. Watch for them over the next couple weeks.

In most ways, it would be easiest to say that my favorite Bob Dylan songs are the songs written by Bob Dylan. Dylan and the Beatles dominate my iTunes songs in the popular music. No one has done with and for music as much as these artists. Dylan is unique. Always moving, always creating new ideas, always a step ahead of even himself. Folk, rock, country, bluegrass, jazz, the American songbook have all been impacted by this minstrel of American music in the past 55+ years.

It is poetic literature. It is amazing.


Dim Lamp said...

First of all, I too am a Dylan fan. and like most of the songs on your list. However your opinion that, to quote you: "Dylan is unique. Always moving, always creating new ideas, always a step ahead of even himself" I would disagree with you.
Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, human rights advocate, philosopher and theologian, among other things, Bruce Cockburn is every bit if not more than Dylan: "Always moving, always creating new ideas, always a step ahead of even himself." That's why if I were on the Nobel committee I'd choose Cockburn rather than Dylan. Moreover, Cockburn can still sing like an angel even at his age, not much younger than Dylan by the way. Whereas Dylan should have stopped singing several years ago. His voice these days sounds terrible. And the guitar playing of Cockburn, I believe is also superior to that of Dylan.
Just sayin'...

pmPilgrim said...

I am also a Bruce Cockburn fan and thoroughly enjoyed his autobiography. I think the difference between Cockburn and Dylan is hard to describe but has to do with a level of involvement with the music. I may even be making a case for why he shouldn't have won the "literature" prize when I say that. But there is a breadth in his words that I don't find in quite the same way in Cockburn. Anyway, I enjoy them both!