Bob Dylan at 70: What makes him a living legend?

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan's hits include Blowin' in the Wind and Like a Rolling Stone

There's lots of Bob Dylan stuff about to cash in on/celebrate his 70th birthday. Some is eulogistic, some salacious and some critical.

You will have seen and heard plenty by now. But if you missed this short piece from Cerys Matthews on Radio 4's Archive Hour, I think it's worth a listen (about 15 minutes in).

I wonder what the man himself makes of it all? I wonder if he can even remember Robert Zimmerman?

As a young artist, did he realise that once you publish or perform your work it is no longer your own? That it is the public who gets to decide not only the merits of your efforts, but what your work means.

And the public decided in 1960s that Bob Dylan's work meant he was more than a singer-songwriter, that he was something nearing a prophet: a man of uncommon wisdom and insight. Society needs heroes and leaders and had chosen Bob for the job.

Which makes being a singer-songwriter a lot harder. Every song, every utterance; every decision is judged in an altogether different light.

Bob Dylan's drug addiction was revealed in an interview from the 1960s

It must be creatively stifling and personally very annoying. But he has managed. And probably recognises that there is something about him that is very easy for the public to romanticise.

He has a clear and distinct voice - very direct and rhythmic. Read his memoir Chronicles and hear him talk just to you.

The biographic doc No Direction Home consists of little more than a headshot of Dylan speaking and some archive footage but it is compelling.

I think it is because Bob Dylan is able to create an illusion of intimacy in a way few others can. Add to that his remarkable charisma, a slight air of vulnerability and an inclination to stick it to "the Man" and you have an icon of the age who has achieved the unusual status of becoming a living legend.

Will Gompertz, Arts editor Article written by Will Gompertz Will Gompertz Arts editor

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    Comment number 22.

    5 best songs? Surely impossible to pick 5 from such a great canon... however tonight mine are

    MrTambourine Man
    Tangled up in Blue
    Don't Think Twice, It's Alright
    It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
    Chimes of Freedom

    In an hour it will be different because I will be, and he understands that... That;'s why we love him. He knows - with a capital K

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Probably the 5 best studio recordings by Dylan:

    *Blind Willie McTell - 1983 full band version of the 'Infidels' outtake
    Up To Me - 1974 outtake from 'Blood On The Tracks'
    Idiot Wind - 1974 recording on 'Blood On The Tracks'
    *Hurricane - 1975 original version for 'Desire' shelved for legal reasons
    *Caribbean Wind - 1981 early version of the 'Shot of Love' outtake

    * not officially released

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    The blonde one was called "Freedom"
    And the dark one was called "Enterprise"

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Things Have Changed
    Lily, Rosemary & The Jack Of Hearts
    Desolation Row
    Most Of The Time
    I'm Not There (1956)

    That's mine for today. Tomorrow it'll be different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Top 5 songs ? That's a tough question.

    Idiot Wind
    Series of Dreams
    Sad eyed lady of the lowlands
    Like a rolling stone
    The times they are a changing.

    Could be a list. But it leaves out about 100 songs that also deserve to make the cut. Why no "Lily, Rosemary & the jack of hearts" you might say. No Blowing in the wind ? No Tambourine man. No Jokerman. Should all be there - and more.


Comments 5 of 22



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