Bob Dylan: 50 Years After His Debut, Have Things Changed?

Today, April 11, is the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan's first professional show, an opening slot for John Lee Hooker at Gerde's Folk City in Greenwich Village. It's also the golden anniversary of Nazi military Adolf Eichmann's war crimes trial beginning in Israel, but that's not really that sunny of an event. He - Eichmann, not Dylan - was hung the next year for being party to the Holocaust.

So it's been half a century since Dylan began his march into history in earnest, spinning out lines before one of the biggest names in blues. A year later Dylan would write a song partly about his first night onstage in front of a paying crowd, instead of an open-mike throng. Kinda reminds us of a stoned Hayes Carll, in a very good way.

Less than five years later, Dylan would record "Like A Rolling Stone," with that opening snare pop echoing across the world. Thirty years after his 1961 shows, a set of recordings from that time, The Bootleg Series, Vols 1-3, Rare and Unreleased 1961-1989, shed light on those shadows of his career.

We asked the Rocks Off News Team what their impressions are of Dylan, his career, and his influence on music and pop culture in general. The reactions were mixed, to say the least, proving that 50 years since he first stood before the world, he is still stirring up a ruckus. Craig Hlavaty


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Neph Basedow: Bob Dylan is not overrated. But what's irritating about Dylan's widespread influence is just that, his influence itself. His style, while genius at times, is attainable and quite simple. Meaning, annoyingly easy to imitate. Obviously, there can be only one "Bob Dylan," but by golly, it seems not every aspiring songwriter agrees.

My favorite Dylan songs include "Fourth Time Around" because of its sweet sincerity and the way its lyrics always paint a picture and storyline in my mind upon hearing it, and "Love Sick" because I wish I'd have written the line, "I'm sick of love/ I wish I'd never met you." Who doesn't?

I don't have any specific least favorite Dylan songs, but they'd likely be from either Under a Red Sky or Self Portrait.


Jeff Balke: There are few things I regret in this life. One of them is not pawning everything I owned to buy a beautiful, stack-knob Fender Jazz bass in the early 90s. The other involved Bob Dylan.

In 1986, I was still in high school, filled with bright ideas and covered in long hair. Rising from the smoke of hair bands and prog-rock that out of my car stereo was a decidedly more mature playlist of American musicians including Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. That summer, Dylan came to Houston on the second leg of his True Confessions tour that included Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as his backing band. I was thrilled. I was excited. I would not be going.

I bought tickets to the show - a mere $17.50, as I recall - but was told the week of the show that I had to go to a family dinner that night, no exceptions. I sold the tickets off to someone at school, who didn't care about them nearly as much as I did. Late in the evening, after dinner, I drove my truck around the 610 Loop, past the Southern Star Amphitheater, where the show was happening, and sighed.



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21 comments
Shannon Batenhorst
Shannon Batenhorst

Happy 50 years of tremendous tunes....keep singing Bobby D!!  :)b

Mookie von Zipper
Mookie von Zipper

things definitely changed after his debut... dylan turned the beatles on to weed... the beatles then turned the rolling stones on to lsd... the stones then turned jimi hendrix on to heroin... now he and brian jones are dead... thanks a lot, bob dylan... fucking murderer...

Sahm-nambulist
Sahm-nambulist

Questioning whether Bob Dylan is incredibly talented -- or saying that he is not incredibly talented b/c he's not "expanding his musical horizons" at 70 years old -- is an absurdist argument, the most twisted hipster wannabe overthinking for the sake of being different I've encountered in a while. The poetry of "Desolation Row" alone overarchs Trent Reznor's entire career. That comparison is laughable. Bob Dylan REVOLUTIONIZED songwriting and the songwriting industry. No Bob Dylan, no Trent Reznor."The question is whether or not influencing a tremendous amount of incredibly talented artists is the same as being incredibly talented yourself." Sorry, no, that is an entirely different question. In fact that's about as circular as a dog chasing its tail.

Side Show Bob
Side Show Bob

It's amazing after fifty years Dylan still sucks

Gary_Gilmore
Gary_Gilmore

thank you for marking this anniversary- its still important.

Glendabrownback
Glendabrownback

A British actor said (not exact quote) of Shakespeare: when you play Shakespeare you are amazed that all of those people, those thoughts, those words, those insights, depths, emotions were in ONE man - they had to be for him to have written that way. That is what I think about after listening to Dylan for 50 years...listen to his newer songs-and how he "acts" them. Every word, every line, every shade of emotion. First he had to live it, then he had to write it, then he had to compose it, then he had to record it, then he had to take it on the road, and all of that is ONE man. And the range goes from funny to mysterious to profound. From simple to complex. And all in conversational American English that seems spontaneous. He is a story teller, always. But he does it from "characters"...and all of those "people" are inside of him, just as the actor pointed out that Shakespeare had a full house inside. Dylan has the American "house" inside.

Teresa
Teresa

Desire is queen, "Joey" notwithstanding.

Thenonymous
Thenonymous

hell yeah things have changed. If Dylan were starting out today some asshole producer would autotune him.

unclelijah
unclelijah

thank you for saving anyone who might have taken the effort to write a long essay on why "music journalism" is in the terlet the time and trouble

Jef With One F
Jef With One F

*shrugs* When you're green, you grow. When you're ripe, you rot. That's what the wife always says to me. Yes, I take the mediocrity of his later work as a dig on his entire legacy. Does it negate his influence? No, but it does cast a pall on his overall status. Again, look at what Johnny Cash accomplished at the end. His three last albums are arguably the best things he ever did. Or look at Neil Young's last album. Same thing. If Dylan's going to coast, he needs to quit releasing albums.

Rmj2
Rmj2

Yes, Glendabrownback! This is good insight into the texture of Dylan's art--he is a great actor and dancer, too. But it is Dylan's voice that make him the greatest American of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: Nobody CAN sing like Bob Dylan--he took the voice by the throat and he is still doing so.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

This is EXACTLY how I feel about Dylan. Amazing.

Curlydan
Curlydan

Agree. I skip over Joey and Oh, Sister but love Desire.

Chris D
Chris D

Funny thats almost exactly how I feel...If Bob Dylan came out today, I doubt he'd even get a record deal let alone have a 50 year career...

Gary Packwood
Gary Packwood

The producer did and it was called an electric guitar.

The fans who were purists and needed a little low tone sermon from time-to-time from the man-of-the-earth himself nearly gave up the religion of Dylan...for good.

Their applause at the end of a set was 3/4th-time ...clapping.

Not Happy Fans!

unclelijah
unclelijah

the music dylan has made since 1997 is some of the best of his career and far eclipses the work of any of his contemporaries

as for allison whatsername--i was around townes van zandt enough to know he'd whip your ass for including his name in your absolutely useless "critique"

unclelijah
unclelijah

which, i might add, absolutely defines the term "elitist"

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