Few songwriters have wielded as impactful an influence as Bob Dylan. The former Robert Zimmerman completely transformed music. His poetic lyrics turned popular music away from schmaltzy, showy novelty type tunes to more direct, honest portrayals of the human experience.
Without Dylan, it’s hard to imagine what the Texas/Americana scene would look like. Would it even exist? The 60’s folk scene that fostered guys like Townes Van Zandt and Jerry Jeff Walker would certainly have been different. His nasally, off-kilter vocals emboldened his songs and gave a weighty creedence to what he was communicating. His delivery made you listen to the words. Something guys like Robert Earl Keen would pick up on and attach to their own work.
Modern day Texas Music wears its Dylan influence on its sleeve through the rapid fire lyrics of Hayes Carll in songs like “KMAG YOYO” and the rollicking cover treatment Ragweed gave his “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35” back on their Wormy Dog record…or even the soaring vocal nuance that Stoney LaRue has provided to “Forever Young”.
Despite Steve Earle’s convictions to the contrary (Earle once said “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.”), it’s safe to say there may not have been a Townes without Dylan…and so many other things wouldn’t have occurred without Dylan. We are eternally grateful for your influence and innovation.
So, happy 70th birthday Bob.