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What if He Doesn't Write Any Songs? 
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Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 10:57 am
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Post What if He Doesn't Write Any Songs?
What happens if Bob Dylan arrives on the folk scene with his guitar
and his, shudder, harmonica and does his Ramblin' Jack Elliot
influenced singing. However, he never writes a song and tries to make
it as a singer.

He came in very high in a recent poll of the "best singers" and I just
wondered if anyone here thought he could have possibly made a living
at it, sans his powerful songwriting.

Obviously, I don't think so but other opinions are welcome.

I "came here" intending to post this on AFH2 because I would have put it on AFH but we have an off-topic forum, so I figured why not.

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Will in New Haven


Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:48 pm
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Post Re: What if He Doesn't Write Any Songs?
I'll admit that Bobby Z. puzzles the hell out of me sometimes.

Short answer: at his best, Dylan was one of the most powerful voices of the sixties, in the first rank of protest/folk singers.

At his average to worst, which was most of the time, he'd have needed to play behind chicken wire. Horrible, barely on key screeching doesn't have much of an audience. (I saw him on TV perhaps ten years ago and it was so embarrassingly bad I had to turn it off. I've heard him sing better since so I can only assume he was having a bad day. But he's had a lot of mediocre to bad days over his career.)

OTOH, if he'd been a songwriter who never played or sang a note, he'd still be in the R&RHF.

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Wed Dec 24, 2008 6:27 pm
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Post Re: What if He Doesn't Write Any Songs?
I've always found that when I begin to doubt Dylan was one of the most important artists of the last century (as a singer and songwriter), I just put my copy of Highway 61 Revisited on the turntable. The doubts vanish.

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Wed Dec 24, 2008 9:23 pm
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Post Re: What if He Doesn't Write Any Songs?
What's a "turn table"?

:P


Wed Dec 24, 2008 11:31 pm
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Post Re: What if He Doesn't Write Any Songs?
James Gifford wrote:
What's a "turn table"?

:P


:lol: When the last of my needles wore out several years ago, I was afraid I would never be able to play my old records again. (What's a "record?") But, I got an Ion USB turntable about a year ago that allows me to digitize my vinyl collection. It's also a really good conventional turntable that I run through my 20 year old amplifier and speakers. I had forgotten how good that old analog technology sounded.

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Wed Dec 24, 2008 11:56 pm
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Post Re: What if He Doesn't Write Any Songs?
Jack Kelly wrote:
I've always found that when I begin to doubt Dylan was one of the most important artists of the last century (as a singer and songwriter), I just put my copy of Highway 61 Revisited on the turntable. The doubts vanish.


That's a great album and Dylan's singing on it is about as good as his singing ever got. And there are several songs on it where there is a "cover" that is distinctly superior, in my opinion. This is despite the fact that his accompanying musicians and the production on that album are pretty much the best he ever had.


Thu Dec 25, 2008 8:16 am
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Post Re: What if He Doesn't Write Any Songs?
Will in New Haven wrote:
Jack Kelly wrote:
I've always found that when I begin to doubt Dylan was one of the most important artists of the last century (as a singer and songwriter), I just put my copy of Highway 61 Revisited on the turntable. The doubts vanish.


That's a great album and Dylan's singing on it is about as good as his singing ever got. And there are several songs on it where there is a "cover" that is distinctly superior, in my opinion. This is despite the fact that his accompanying musicians and the production on that album are pretty much the best he ever had.

The folk tradition put up with and supported some truly awful singing -- remember Leonard Cohen? Some of his own renditions of his own songs are still very moving (no matter who you first heard cover "Suzanne," for instance...)

I think for best all-time combination singer-songwriter, Joni Mitchell has my vote. Well -- Lennon-McCartney...


Thu Dec 25, 2008 8:51 am
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Post Re: What if He Doesn't Write Any Songs?
Will in New Haven wrote:
What happens if Bob Dylan arrives on the folk scene with his guitar
and his, shudder, harmonica and does his Ramblin' Jack Elliot
influenced singing. However, he never writes a song and tries to make
it as a singer.

He came in very high in a recent poll of the "best singers" and I just
wondered if anyone here thought he could have possibly made a living
at it, sans his powerful songwriting.

Obviously, I don't think so but other opinions are welcome.

I "came here" intending to post this on AFH2 because I would have put it on AFH but we have an off-topic forum, so I figured why not.

--
Will in New Haven
One of the reactions I had while watching "Across the Universe" was that the Beatles music very nearly -- but not quite completely -- captured the era, but it also pointed up what was necessary to complete the capture. Dylan's music would have been needed (and I include all the covers that made Dylan's songwriting so famous). I acquired one of those "hits of the 60's" downloads recently and was surprised at how fresh some of that music sounds, forty and more years later ("California Dreamin" "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Turn, Turn, Turn.") while leads to this morning channel surfing I stopped at the VHI top 40 hits of 2008 because I couldn't remember any memorable pop-rock this year; sure enough, it was all 100% aural wallpaper -- and nobody seems to know that it's wallpaper.

(If anyone hasn't seen "Across the Universe," it's essentially "Hair!" done with an all-Beatles soundtrack, with some rather interesting covers).


Thu Dec 25, 2008 8:56 am
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Post Re: What if He Doesn't Write Any Songs?
Bill Patterson wrote:
Will in New Haven wrote:
Jack Kelly wrote:
I've always found that when I begin to doubt Dylan was one of the most important artists of the last century (as a singer and songwriter), I just put my copy of Highway 61 Revisited on the turntable. The doubts vanish.


That's a great album and Dylan's singing on it is about as good as his singing ever got. And there are several songs on it where there is a "cover" that is distinctly superior, in my opinion. This is despite the fact that his accompanying musicians and the production on that album are pretty much the best he ever had.

The folk tradition put up with and supported some truly awful singing -- remember Leonard Cohen? Some of his own renditions of his own songs are still very moving (no matter who you first heard cover "Suzanne," for instance...)

I think for best all-time combination singer-songwriter, Joni Mitchell has my vote. Well -- Lennon-McCartney...


Joni is one of the greatest, certainly. I still remember some snide creature in "Rolling Stone" magazine calling Crosby, Stills & Nash lighweights for recording one of her songs. After all, she's a grrrl.

By the way, after looking at the list of songs on "Highway 61," I have to say that none of them have been covered all that well, as far as I know. My memory put some songs on there that were actually on other records.


Sat Dec 27, 2008 10:02 am
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Post Re: What if He Doesn't Write Any Songs?
Surely Bob Dylan's songwriting is at a level where he has few rivals. But his singing does have its own character. It's not music-school polished, perhaps unpolishable; but that's not all bad.

As a little test of vocal effect, or of singer's interpretation without the songwriter's effect, I just ran through a few renditions of "Corrina, Corrina" I have handy on iTunes; John Lennon (1980), Bob Dylan (1963), Joe Turner (1956), Merrill Moore (1952), and the Texas Wanderers (1937).

All are distinctive, and I rather like them all.

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