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Happy Birthday Mr. Zimmerman

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.

9 Responses to “Happy Birthday Mr. Zimmerman”

  1. TX Music Jim May 24, 2011

    Without Dylan there would be no Texas Red Dirt music scene, period. No Jerry Jeff, Townes, Guy Clark, who lead to REK who Led to Hayes Carll etc. etc. Great article you nailed it. I agree with Steve Earle Townes was the greatest songwriter in the world but… without Dylan no Townes no Blaze foley etc.


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  2. Music always has, and always will evolve. I believe it would have evolved without Dylan. That is all that I can say with conviction.

    I can not, however, say with any conviction how great Bob Dylan was/is. I’ve only been able to get into a handful of his songs. I haven’t heard all of them.

    I was talking to Phil Pritchett about Dylan one day and I asked him if he thought Dylan’s lyrics would be just as great if he were to come out as a rookie artist TODAY. I believe Phil said yes, but I’d have to disagree. I think he may have been a product of timing.

    With all that being said, nobody can dispute that he DID have a titanically huge impact on how music has evolved and he is as true an artist as there can be. I want to get my hands on more of his interviews. Much interest, this man invokes.


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    • TX Music Jim May 24, 2011

      You are corect about both points music would have elvoved without Dylan. However, how would it have evolved? Would it have allowed for the singer songwriter genere that leads us to the Texas music scene we know and love? Who knows. Timing most certianly played a role. People were ready for deeper more meaningful music as a society when Dylan came along. Check out stuff like tangled up in blue all along the watchtower, yeah if he came along today people would still be going damn that’s awesome stuff.


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  3. He’s my favorite Birthday Buddy!!!!!


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  4. I just think about how many people that have had the same type of lyrics and a unique sound like Dylan but were swept under the rug.

    I sort of view it the same way I view the soldier who jumps on the grenade to save the war hero. Somebody gets the medals, parades, and storybook ending. But someone at least equally as great falls on the grenade.

    Great musicians have been falling on grenades for a long time and they are no less talented or awesome as the warhero (Dylan in this case) who “lived to reap the rewards”.

    I guess I always lean towards the unsung heroes and I wrongfully hold contempt for the stars, even if they’ve done nothing wrong.

    I can’t bash Dylan. He has written too many good songs for anyone to say he isn’t good. But I must take the extremely un-popular stance of thinking he is more good than great.

    I will now cower, and hope that the bullets bounce off rather than take hold.


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  5. TX Music Jim May 24, 2011

    I don’t completely disagree or consider you thoughts sacrilige. I’ve always enjoyed Townes much more than Dylan. BUT… without those guys like Dylan who through a combo of luck, timing and yes, immense talent struck a chord with the masses the order of the musical universe would be different. Texas music fans by nature root for the underdogs! Would there be a Dylan without a Woody Guthrie? Who got most of his due after his death?


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  6. I’ll end this with “Happy birthday Dylan!”

    I hope he keeps making music until he retires into the clouds.


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  7. TX Music Jim May 24, 2011

    Amen! Me 2.


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