How to Appreciate Bob Dylan’s Singing Voice

“How to Appreciate Bob Dylan’s Singing Voice” is by Blake Guthrie and can be found on eHow.

It’s a running joke that Bob Dylan can’t sing. Countless wannabe comics have mined this fact for use in their lame bits for cheap and easy laughs almost as much as they use the tired jokes about airline pilots. You know, how you can’t understand what they are saying. If you are among those who simply don’t understand the multi-generational power of Dylan’s singing voice, here are some tips to get you started.

Step One
Start with Nashville Skyline, Dylan’s so-called “country” album, released in 1969. Whether you’re a fan trying to win over a convert or a non-fan who remains skeptical, this is widely regarded as Dylan’s best vocal performance on an album, probably because he stopped smoking for awhile before recording it.

Step Two

Understand the folk idiom. Dylan started out as a folkie, then became a rocker and has been switch-hitting ever since. Rock was born of folk and blues and the intent of this art form is to have the artist perform the songs he writes. This increases the emotional impact of the song for most listeners.

Step Three

Bob Dylan sings for the moment, not the technical aspects of singing. Sure, he’s making a damn good living, but as an artist he’s an interpreter of the moment.

Step Four
He doesn’t say much in concert. He might smile and wave. Don’t expect much else. He’s there to sing the songs he’s written, because that’s all he’s ever done.

Tips & Warnings
Listen to more folk and blues music, the older the better.
When Dylan breaks into “All Along the Watchtower” don’t yell out to your buddy, “Oh, my God, he’s playing Hendrix, dude!” and then give him a high-five.

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About genemyers

Gene Myers is a New Jersey poet, music journalist and columnist who learned to walk twice. His weekly column is called The Joy of Life. He was awarded first place in Arts and Entertainment Writing by The New Jersey Press Association.
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2 Responses to How to Appreciate Bob Dylan’s Singing Voice

  1. Phil Passantino says:

    Appreciating Bob Dylan once I hit college-age or so was never hard for me. He's weaving such poetry, and there's such earnestness in his voice (& in later years such venom), that the equipment he's using doesn't get in the way. A smooth voice like Sinatra's would not work with these lyrics. I can see, though, that the lyrics sometimes go over people's heads.

  2. Ambidexter says:

    Dylan is an excellent songwriter, easily one of the best of the second half of the 20th Century. However he’s not a good singer. It has nothing to do with understanding his lyrics or anything like that. The man sings through his nose and sometimes has trouble finding and keeping on key.

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