Friday, November 9, 2007

I'm Not There

On November 21st, The Bob Dylan biopic “I’m Not There” will be released at your local cinema. The film is going to be a very unorthodox way of telling parts of Bob Dylan’s story. There will be seven different actors portraying Bob at different points in his life. Including a pre-teen African American and the amazing Cate Blanchett.


The uniqueness of the narrative is befitting it’s subject. True to Dylan himself. He is perhaps the most unique voice ever to make popular music. He’s an enigma. A rogue. A genius.

If you were to debate who has had the most influence on popular music, the discussion would have three components. John Lennon, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. That’s it. Not even Sinatra would be in the ring with those three heavyweights. I would take Dylan. Here’s why;

As great as Elvis is, he was not a songwriter and barely a musician. Yes, his voice is unparalleled, as was his fame, but The King was not singing his songs. The Beatles are the greatest band of all time, and John was the engine that powered the bus, but the great songwriting periods after the initial bubble-gum records was due in large part to Dylan. After John and Paul listened to Dylan’s first couple records, they determined to write “important” songs. They took lyrics more seriously. (Okay, I don’t understand I am the Walrus either, but you get my point.) after hearing and meeting Bob, we got Rubber Soul, Abbey Road and Let It Be. The Beatles evolved because of Dylan. They were also introduced to pot and LSD, but that’s another kettle of beans.

Dylan made lyrics important. He made songs matter beyond what they ranked on the top 40. Dylan couldn’t have cared less if his singles charted. He showed what it meant to have artistic integrity. He basically said, these were the songs, take them or leave them. You don’t like the electric guitar? Go to hell, those are the songs. You don’t understand what some of the lyrics mean? Piss off, those are the songs, interpret them if you want.

The main contribution Dylan made was that he showed the importance of the songwriter and what a pop song could really do. A song could do more than make you sing along in your car. A great song could actually influence change. It could make you think. Listen to Chimes of Freedom, When the Ship Comes In or Pawn in the Game to see what I mean.

I have a theory about Bob. If you have any kind of good taste in music, somewhere along the line, you’ll learn to appreciate Dylan. I honestly believe that’s true.

If you are not that versed in Dylan, I suggest renting Marty Scorsese’s documentary “No Direction Home.” And the recent DVD “The Other Side of the Mirror,” which is Dylan’s performances at the legendary Newport folk festival from 1963 to 1965. Those may help you understand why “I’m Not There” is an important film.

These are my favorite Bob Dylan songs right now. Subject to change in the next fifteen minutes.

1. My Back Pages
2. Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues – From The Bootlegs box set.
3. Chimes of Freedom
4. One More Cup of Coffee
5. Mama, You Been On My Mind – There’s also a good version of this song that is a duet with Joan Baez.
6. Most of the Time – This song was used in “High Fidelity.”
7. Man Of Constant Sorrow – No, that song was not written for “O Brother Where Art Thou?” It’s a very old song.
8. Ballad of a Thin Man – How do not like a song that mentions a “one-eyed midget?”
9. Forever Young
10. Not Dark Yet – A newer Dylan song.

Listen to Bob Dylan…

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