Bob Dylan Thinks Young People Are Bad at Writing Songs

05/01/2009 10:45 AM |

6591/1241190908-picture_4.pngYou may have heard that Bob Dylan released a new record, Together Through LIfe, on Tuesday, and as such, you probably assumed he’ll be gracing the cover of the next issue of Rolling Stone. You are correct: issue 1,067 of the magazine will feature yet another Dylan cover story, this one penned by historian Doug Brinkley. There’s a preview of the piece on the Rolling Stone site today, which focuses on portions of the article that discuss Dylan’s collaboration with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter on all but one song from the new record. Not surprisingly, Dylan comes off as a bit of a grumpy old asshole.

“He’s got a way with words, and I do too,” he told Brinkley. “We both write a different type of song than what passes for songwriting today.”

Now, I’m currently in my apartment staring at a framed poster from a 1976 Dylan show, and if I turn around in my desk chair and glance at my record collection, I will easily be able to spot the long, beautiful row of Dylan CDs, with their unmistakable white and red Columbia Records spines. My iTunes contains more Dylan than any other artist, my more than a day. What I’m saying is, I’m sorta into the dude. I go through phases where I can’t listen to anything else, in fact.

But every time he says something like this, I feel ever so slightly less inclined to listen to anything by him, let alone one of his new records, which we all know skirt by at least partially because every single music critic on the planet is still just looking for an opportunity to write the once-in-a-lifetime piece that sufficiently explains how special he is, or was. There’s just nothing less appealing to me, in any situation, than old people complaining about young people, even if it’s Bob Dylan.

6 Comment

  • Why do all these music “greats” get all stodgy and mean? By the way, like the new blog.

  • It really sounds like you’re a guy who just got dumped by an awful significant other and Dylan is the friend who is telling you straight up that it was problematic and not worth it but you’re offended because you don’t want to hear the truth.

  • Thanks for chiming in, but: Meh, Dylan’s only ever been able to play the role of mighty truth-teller in song. He’s always behaved like a petulant or, at at best, precocious teenager in interviews. I found it endearing when he was younger, and when I was younger too, come to think of it. But now he’s really just acting like everyone else his age, by complaining about the kids and longing for days gone by (which he never seemed particularly pleased with at the time, mind you), and it really is not a good look.

  • I feel ya, Mike, but we must remember the old adage, separate the art from the artist.

    It is true that he’s fallen back on this whole blues 1-4-5 adventure, but he still fires out some interesting phrasing here and there.

    When he was behaving as a precocious teenager in the interviews, I think he was just taking his opportunity to say the things that any of us who are critical of the state of our society would say if we had the chance (or were brave enough). I’m in my mid twenties, and while I’m grateful for living in NYC and attending fun shows and parties and all, I can’t help but think of the cost that my and everyone else’s excess here causes for those who weren’t born fortunate. Year after year, capitalism is raising its ugly beast head, the gap between richer and poorer is getting wider, and with these things comes the loss of personal connection as everything becomes a product for profit instead of something genuine.

    -older people like Bob Dylan still had a taste of the authentic, but it (increasingly) is now a hard pressed find, and this is why he laments

  • Everyone tells him he’s the best songwriter, he probably never gets to hear any good new music, hears some Fraz Ferdinand, and draws the conclusion that there are no good songwriters. That makes perfect sense. I think Bob Dylan is a good songwriter, but not a great one. A great lyricist, but lyrics are only half a song, in my opinion. Lyrics are fine, but you need a good melody and a good hook. Only a few Dylan songs have that. (and the best of them were improved by the Byrds singing them). I think Bob is in no position to criticize songwriters, since he mostly writes half-song sketches. You want good song-crafting, check out Eric Bachman. He has whole albums full of great lyrics, beautiful melodies and memorable hooks. There’s lots more, but they don’t make the cover of the Rolling Stone.

  • Dylan might not always be right, but he is true to himself. I’m not sure that the same can be said for many in the celebrity-driven culture today. He’s idiosyncratic and not always easy to listen to or understand, but he is authentic. I fear that the world doesn’t have enough people who look within themselves alone for the answers.