Welcome to a new Monday post with 3 random thoughts on all things guitar, music, and life…Today, I want to do something different and talk about the polarising genius of Bob Dylan.
Well, I’ve been enjoying his music ever more lately, browsing live videos on YouTube, and listening to Highway 61 Revisited (my favourite of his records)…
…And because I’ve never really written much about him or some of his influence on me.
#1 – Talent is overrated (and subjective)
One thing many people say is that they think Dylan doesn’t really have much talent.
He’s a “mediocre” musician, guitarist, and singer and all that.
I’ve always hated the whole “talent” thing because it’s nonsense, really.
What counts is skill – and Dylan is supremely skilful at creating music that conjures up images, lyrics that evoke, and music that moves people.
What he lacks in his vocal range, he makes up for in his delivery.
…And what he lacks in guitar histrionics, he more than makes up for with his ability to play for the song, and I love how he does his own thing.
There are a gazillion guitarists through time who could play more fancy stuff, but many of the technically brilliant people leave me cold.
Plus, Dylan is a more skilful guitarist than people give him credit for.
Of course, he’s a pro musician, so he has the basics down, but over the years he has shown flashes of sublime playing … Like on the song “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” for instance.
There’s a cool alternative version on YouTube with Clapton joining him on stage where they start harmonising their playing at some point too.
…Anyway, regardless of talent and all that, Dylan’s music makes me feel.
That’s what really counts.
#2 – Inspiration
Some of my favourite songs that got me into playing guitar were covers of Dylan’s stuff.
For instance, you’ve got Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower”, Guns N’ Roses’ version of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”, and The Byrd’s cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man”.
I’d heard all these covers before I’d heard Dylan’s original versions.
At first, I was like, “Wow, the covers are way better”.
In some ways, they are. I mean, Jimi’s version still blows me away.
…But they are Dylan’s songs and without him, those amazing cover versions wouldn’t exist.
It’s funny as well, one of my first students, called John, was a big Dylan fan.
He’d spent decades trying to play his songs but struggled.
We got to work fixing his core fundamental technique, and that allowed him to play them finally.
Anyway, John saw Dylan play live and said it was a strange gig. He played all the hits, but they were barely recognisable – like he was covering his own songs – he changed up so much live.
Just another way Dylan did his own thing.
#3 – Rock solid self-belief
One of the books I’ve been reading lately is called Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It.
It looks at famous folk and how they became so successful.
The author talks about how Dylan, at a young age, was so full of self-belief.
He almost created a character for himself.
He was blurring reality with fiction, going from Robert Zimmerman to Bob Dylan.
The author kind of makes out it was fake, but to me, it seems it was just Dylan becoming the person he wanted to become…
…And it was his self-belief that was shining through.
Shows how belief can trump talent by a long shot.
He wanted something, so he went on a mission to get it and nothing was going to stand in his way.
I love that.
Anyway, I could write loads more about Dylan, his guitar playing, the subtle brilliance in his music, and his lyrical genius.
I think the man is a true modern-day poet, and it’s far more interesting to read his words than other poets I’ve come across – I could literally just read his lyrics for ages – and those are a million miles away from most bland pop music we hear today where the lyrics are all so dull – Dylan could truly paint a picture with his words.
So there you go.
I hope you enjoyed these very random thoughts on Bob Dylan.
Love him or loathe him, his music has stood the test of time.
Anyway, if you enjoy the styles of music Dylan has played over the years – fingerpicking, folk, rock, and blues – then you might like to check this out…
Enjoy your Monday!
P.S. If you enjoyed these random thoughts about Bob Dylan, let me know. I may do some more at some point in the future about other artists and guitarists that have inspired me.
P.P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.